WHEELING – In a game of runs, Wheeling Central had the first and the last Tuesday night.
The first was a 17-0 sprint out of the gate and the last (11-6) preserved a hard-earned 57-52 victory over visiting Trinity Christian on Coach Skip Prosser Court inside the Maroon Knight Athletic Complex.
“They made a couple of nice runs against us, but give my kids credit, they made some plays down the stretch when we needed them,” Wheeling Central head coach Mel Stephens said. “Troy (Anthony) had a couple big 3s, but probably his biggest play was the offensive rebound he got and the putback.
“We’ll take it for what it’s worth. It’s a win,” Stephens added. “We did some good things, but there are still some things we need to work on. We’ve got a big test on Saturday at Charleston Catholic, so we’ve got 2-3 days to get ready for them.”
The Morgantown-based Warriors (7-7) battled back from that dreadful start – in which they misfired on their first 12 shots from the floor – to take a 46-44 lead on a basket by Carter Hartsock with 4:32 on the fourth-quarter clock.
Troy Anthony drove to the basket and scored while being fouled to draw the Maroon Knights even 12 seconds later. After a Trinity Christian miss, Wheeling Central (8-6) worked the ball to Jeremy Ratcliffe in the left corner and he drained a three-pointer that put the hosts up for good at 49-46. An inside bucket from Max Olejasz bumped the margin to 51-46.
An Anthony drive to the hoop made it 53-49 with 2:37 remaining, but Trinity Christian’s Aaron White knocked down an elbow jumper, but an offensive rebound and putback by Olejasz made it 55-51 with just under two minutes left.
The Warriors missed 3 of 4 free throws down the stretch and Ratcliffe sealed the deal with a pair at the 19.8-second mark.
“The last time we played they also had a 17-point run,” Trinity Christian head coach Codey Horton said. “We battled back and took the lead, but they hit that three to put them up and we couldn’t get back in the lead.
“It was a neck-and-neck game,” Horton continued. “We put Trinity Christian back on the map. We’re not in the top 10, but we’re right there. We showed tonight that we won’t give up.”
Junior Quinton Burlenski led three players in double digits for the Maroon Knights with 20, 17 of those coming in the first half when they led 32-21 at the break. Anthony finished with 14 points (9 in the fourth quarter) and nine rebounds. Ratcliffe added 10 points and seven boards. Isaac Schmitt pulled down a team-best 10 rebounds.
Hartsock netted a game-high 26 points, including 11 in the third quarter when the Warriors made their move by outscoring the Maroon Knights, 17-7, to trail 39-38 entering the fourth quarter. The 6-5, 280-pound White had a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Hartsock had eight boards.
Both teams took extremely good care of the basketball, with Trinity Christian charting just two turnovers, which was five less than Wheeling Central.
Wheeling Central heads south to meet Charleston Catholic on Saturday in a battle of state-ranked teams. The Irish are No. 8, one spot ahead of the Maroon Knights. Trinity Christian was among the others receiving votes.
By Kim North/The Intelligencer
Wheeling Central 57, Trinity Christian 52
TC 6 15 17 14 – 52
WC 17 15 7 18 – 57
TRINITY CHRISTIAN (52) – L. Kniska 0 0-0 0; Adams 2 3-4 8; Teets 2 0-0 6; Hartsock 10 5-6 26; White 5 2-4 14; Hancox 0 0-0 0; M. Kniska 0 0-0 0; Totals: 19-56 10-14 52. WHEELING CENTRAL (57) – Burlenski 7 3-4 20; Ratcliffe 3 2-2 10; Olejasz 4 1-2 9; Anthony 6 0-1 14; Schmitt 2 0-0 4; T. Dean 0 0-0 0; E. Dean 0 0-0 0; Crall 0 0-0 0; Billick 0 0-0 0; Totals: 22-52 6-9 57
3-point goals: TC – Teets (2), Adams, Hartsock; WC – Burlenski (2), Ratcliffe (2), Anthony (3)