CHARLESTON - A relatively new rule gave Wheeling Central a second chance in the state tournament. Charleston Catholic's defensive rebounding did not.
After blowing past Magnolia in a West Virginia Class A quarterfinal on Wednesday, where the Maroon Knights shot the lights out, they missed 6 of every 10 shots Friday in the semifinals and the Irish collected them at every turn in a 61-55 victory.
"If you don't rebound the ball on the offensive end and don't shoot it very well, you're probably going to be in a little bit of trouble," Wheeling Central coach Mel Stephens said.
WHEELING CENTRAL’S Chase Harler makes a move to the bucket during Friday morning’s Class A semifinal in Charleston. The Knights dropped a 61-55 decision to Charleston Catholic.
That helped spell an end to a season in which the Maroon Knights were 14-13 but among the last four standing in the class.
Though they trailed by three at halftime, it was a dismal 3 of 13 effort from the floor in the second quarter that set Wheeling Central back after making half of its 12 attempts in the first quarter.
The Irish pushed their lead to as high as 11 with 1:39 left in the third before the Knights, behind six points from Chase Harler, four from Thomas Stanley, and two from David Park, whittled it down to three with 3:16 remaining in the game.
"I think we got a little bit more aggressive and we were able to get a few offensive rebounds there," Stephens said. "By being aggressive and them having a little bit of a lead, they were able to say, 'let's make them work a little bit, but let's not foul them,' we were able to get some easier chances."
Charleston Catholic put it away at the free-throw line, going 10 of 16 at the stripe from that point.
"I think we made free throws when we needed to just to keep separation," Charleston Catholic coach Bill McClanahan said.
"We knew Central had a run. We knew we needed to be efficient on offense and they were probably going to foul us. We just needed to make sure we didn't get caught up in the emotion of their spurt, and get back to managing our emotions."
Sprinkled in the stretch run for the Irish was a tip-in by Zack Castro, who finished with 16 points and 15 rebounds, and a layup by Garret McCarty, who added seven points in 20 minutes despite playing at what his coach figured was 60 percent because of the flu.
It was Castro's third straight double-double performance.
"Zack's playing like a monster," McClanahan said.
Nick George led all scores with 24 points.
"They made the plays at the end," Stephens said. "It seemed like every loose ball toward the end they were able to come up with somehow, and we were playing from behind the whole time."
David Park led Wheeling Central with 18 points, but after making 2 of 4 3-pointers in the first half, continuing a scintillating carryover from the semifinal, he missed all three he attempted in the second half.
"You're not going to make every single one," Park said. "I was just taking open shots and they just weren't falling."
Harler added 15 points and 10 rebounds and Brandon Wallace joined him with a double-double of 12 points and 10 boards.
"I thought we played hard, but I thought they just played a little bit better than we did," Stephens said. "I wish some of the timeouts I didn't use all year we could have saved and used down here. We probably needed a few more down the stretch."