CHARLESTON, W.Va. — No. 5 Charleston Catholic escaped No. 4 Wheeling Central on the shoulders of freshman forward Vida Imani, who scored seven points in the last 1:40 to secure a 49-44 victory in the Class A quarterfinals.
“We knew coming in that it was going to be a dogfight for us, we almost gave away there at the end,” Charleston Catholic coach Zack Bogan said. “We were able to grit down, make enough plays and get stops to win the game.”
The win was vengeance for the Irish (20-6), who lost two close games to Wheeling Central earlier this season.
“It was definitely motivation for us after they had beaten us twice,” Bogan said.
With the the lead down to 40-38, the Irish looked to the freshman and she delivered with a 3 from the right corner. Then she calmly knocked down six free throws in the final minute.
Asked whether her coach had drawn a play or if she had tried to get to her favorite spot, Imani laughed and said, “No I just shot it.”
Imani finished with a game-high 17 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Anna Whelan scored 12 points, reaching the 1,000-point career mark in the process. Hanna Gallian chipped in 10 more.
“It’s nice to have someone who can set picks and fill a role for you, and now we have three people who can score,” Logan said of Imani. “Her teammates trust her to take those shots and they look for her in the those situations.”
The Irish shot 41 percent from the field and made 12-of-16 shots at the line.
Wheeling Central (14-11), which never led in the game, got 16 points and a game-high 12 boards from Regan Blaha.
“I was trying to do whatever I could to get my team back in the game,” Blaha said. “I just got the rebounds and put backs when my teammates didn’t make the shots.”
The Knights held to three points in the second quarter went into the break down 20-13. They finished 14-of-46 from the field.
“We put ourselves in a little bit of a hole in the first half and we tried to make a run a couple times cutting it to two,” Wheeling Central coach Penn Kurtz said. “We couldn’t get it back to even or take the lead, its tough when you don’t make foul shots.”
Wheeling Central shot 11-for-21 from the foul line, including Lindsay Baker going just 5-of-12. Baker was held to just seven points and could only muster one field goal.
“Nothing was really falling and I just got more frustrated,” Baker said. “I just tried to get my teammates open and get it into the post and do what was working for us.”
Charleston Catholic advances to take on No. 1 St. Joseph Central in the Class A semifinals on Friday.