STEUBENVILLE - The Wheeling Central Catholic boys basketball team took an 11-point lead at halftime, thanks to a 20-10 second-quarter advantage, did all the right things in the second half and the result was a 59-42 victory at Steubenville Catholic Central Tuesday evening.
"In the second half we shot free throws very well," said Maroon Knights veteran coach Mel Stephens after his club went 11-for-12 from the line in the fourth quarter, including 8-of-8 by David Park. "When you get in close games and you have a lead, you have to make free throws and I thought we did that well.
"I thought we rebounded the ball well and forced them to play catch-up."
DETERMINED — Steubenville Catholic Central’s Ryan Fletcher drives to the basket to score two of his team-high 15 points during Tuesday’s 59-42 home loss to Wheeling Central.
-- Mike Mathison
Wheeling Central also did a good job of protecting the basketball.
"We didn't have a lot of turnovers. Early in the year that was one of our problems - turning it over too many times," said Stephens. "If you can take care of the ball, you should be able to take decent shots. Then, if you can make foul shots and rebound, you should be able to win."
Mission accomplished for the Maroon Knights (5-8).
Steubenville Central, playing without starting seniors Zach Herrington and Michael Carapellotti due to the flu, lost for the third time in 14 starts.
"We were without the two because of the flu bug, but our kids stepped up tonight," said Crusaders mentor Sean Tucker. "We played hard. We played our hearts out.
"In order for us to win games with the team we had on the floor tonight, or any other night, we have to be detailed. We stressed in practice about being detailed and we were not detailed in anything we did tonight.
"That's to take nothing away from Wheeling Central. Coach Stephens does a great job with those kids. They played really well tonight."
"I didn't believe it until we got on the court and they weren't here, but that's something we can't control and that's something Sean can't control," Stephens said of the two missing Crusaders. "Sean does a good with those guys. They played hard. They always do. They are going to be fine down the road.
"We played one of our better games."
Freshman Chase Harler led the winners with a game-high 21 points. Park added 15, including a perfect 10-for-10 from the charity stripe.
Ryan Fletcher paced the Crusaders with 15 points. Matt Martello chipped in with 11.
Wheeling Central answered every Catholic Central run in the second half, when it garnered a 30-24 advantage.
"We talked to the kids about playing team basketball, which means setting good screens, rotating well on defense, talking, helping out, hedging screens and I think those are things we have been taking for granted in practice," said Tucker. "We just talked about that. We practiced badly yesterday because we only went 75 percent in practice and it showed tonight.
"We have to go harder in practice. We can't take it easy. We're not a group who can have a day off. Not these kids. They have to go hard because that's how they play.
"That's totally my fault. I'm completely to blame there.
"Offensively tonight we didn't attack, we weren't aggressive, we weren't patient. We didn't come off screens well. We didn't set screens well. There were clear open lanes to the bucket and we would drive and pass the ball.
"When you're on the varsity level, you can't miss layups. It's as simple as that. You can't miss free throws. I don't know how many free throws Wheeling Central missed tonight, but it was less than us."
The Maroon Knights were 17-for-20 and the Crusaders 7-for-12.
"Like all teams, we work and work on free throws in practice," said Tucker. "We have to get better at that in games."
Catholic Central, which welcomes Steubenville Big Red Friday night, is 63-for-94 in its last five games from the line.
Wheeling Central 59, Steubenville Central 42
Wheeling Central 9 20 14 16 - 59
Steubenville Central 8 10 13 11 - 42
WHEELING CENTRAL: Harler 8 3-4 21, Park 2 10-10 15, Wallace 3 0-2 6, Pleva 2 0-0 4, Stanley 1 2-2 4, Ingram 1 0-0 3, Hammers 0 2-2 2, Manns 1 0-0 2, Siebieda 1 0-0 2. TOTALS: 18 17-20 59. 3-pointers: Harler 2, Park, Ingram.
STEUBENVILLE CENTRAL: Fletcher 6 0-0 15, Martello 4 1-2 11, Colabella 1 2-2 4, M. Barber 1 0-0 2, T. Barber 2 0-0 4, Porreca 1 1-4 3, Manfresca 0 3-4 3, Kotur 0 0-0 0, Dombrowski 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 16 7-12 42. 3-pointers: Martello 2, Fletcher.