CHARLESTON — Class A No. 2 Wheeling Central led from start to finish March 8, beating No. 7 Trinity, 78-47, in the girls’ state basketball quarterfinals.
The Maroon Knights (23-2) scored 25 points off 24 forced turnovers, won the rebounding battle, 37-29, hit seven 3s and shot 46 percent from the floor in the win.
“I thought we came out with a lot of energy, shot the ball well early and got in a nice rhythm on the offensive end,” Wheeling Central coach Penn Kurtz said. “They’re missing their best player, so it was kind of tough for them to battle back. Once we got a lead, we felt pretty comfortable with it.”
That best player for Trinity (13-13) is senior Emily Saurborn, who tore an ACL in regional play. Both coaching staffs had an arrangement going into the game to honor Saurborn and give her a moment on the Civic Center court.
Saurborn was on the floor for the opening tip-off and received the first pass before a timeout was called and she was subbed out.
“Starting today was big,” Saurborn said of the moment. “It’s good to be able to walk off the court in your last game rather than be carried off.
“Two years ago, if you would have told people that we would be playing in the Charleston Civic Center, they wouldn’t have believed you,” she continued. “We won four games my sophomore year. We lost in the first round, but at least we were one of the eight that made it.”
Wheeling Central, a perennial name at the Charleston Civic Center, looked the part. The Maroon Knights entered state tournament play with six players averaging double figures, and four finished in double figures Thursday.
“Their speed gave us a lot of trouble today,” Trinity coach Mike Baldy said. “We really had trouble with their starters and we had a little bit of concrete feet where we weren’t moving our feet like we needed to. We play good teams in our region and section, but we don’t play teams who quite have the speed that Wheeling Central has.”
The Maroon Knights were led by senior Taylor Duplaga, who had 19 points. Eden Gainer, Hannah White and Kaylee Reinbeau added 11 points each.
“I told myself to play hard and that my teammates would get me the ball,” Duplaga said. “Having the great teammates I have makes things so much easier. The past three years we have fallen short of our goal, which is winning a state championship. To achieve that goal, we have to work hard and do the little things right.”
Reagan Sharp led Trinity with 23 points. Jaclyn Smith added 13 points.
Wheeling Central moves on to face No. 3 Tucker County in the semifinals at 11:15 a.m. today. Tucker County’s loss came to Wheeling Central, 65-44, on Jan. 31.
“The first time we played them, I think we caught them a little bit by surprise,” Kurtz said. “We jumped out to a quick 11-0 lead and had them on their heels the whole game. I don’t think there will be any surprises (today). We expect a battle the whole game.”