CHARLESTON, W.Va. — With Chase Harler taking command in the second overtime, Wheeling Central held off Charleston Catholic’s upset bid 64-55 in the Class A state championship.
“(Charleston Catholic) came out with a lot of energy today and we didn’t start very well,” Wheeling Central coach Mel Stephens said. “To our kids credit, we hung in there. In the second overtime we made a couple big plays to give us separation.”
Wheeling Central claimed its first title since 2009 thanks to a 30-point output from Harler, who scored nine of his team’s 15 points in double-OT.
“In the second half I tried to be a little more aggressive and drive to the lane and not settling for jump shots,” Harler said. ”
Charleston Catholic—hoping to send off long-time coach Bill McClanahan with another crown—led by 10 points in the first half and never trailed until Harler’s 3 with 2:54 left in regulation put Wheeling Central ahead 43-42.
“We could never quite get over the mountain top, from the middle part in the fourth through the two overtimes,” McClanahan said. “They held us at arm’s length and finished the way you need to to be a championship team.”
With the score deadlocked at 45-all, Harler had another open look at the of regulation, but his jumper from the top of the key kicked off left rim.
It remained tied at 49 at the end of the first overtime, when Catholic double-teamed Harler and forced him to pass to teammate Jonathan Droginske on the left wing. Droginske’s first shot attempt of the game bank away at the buzzer.
Catholic was paced by Nick George’s double-double of 20 points and 12 rebounds, who shut down Wheeling Central’s second-leading scorer David Park for most of the game.
“I know he can shoot the lights out so I didn’t want him to get a good looks,” George said. “I just tried to force him into uncomfortable situations and always had my hands up.”
Garrett McCarty finished with 17 points, going 10-of-11 from the line.
“We had trouble scoring in the fourth quarter and in the two overtimes,” McCarty said. “They played us really tight and we just couldn’t get open opportunities.”
Park scored 10 points, including 8-of-12 free-throw shooting, grabbed a team high 14 rebounds.
The Irish jumped out to a 16-6 first-quarter lead, highlighted by George’s dunk as well as keeping Park and Harler off the board.
“We were in big trouble in the first quarter,” Stephens said. “Our first two buckets were C.J. Burch and Joey John, who very seldom every score.”
Yet Catholic couldn’t sustain that margin with Wheeling Central chipping away throughout the second and third quartes.
“We just wanted to be patient on offense, because we knew we were going to get our shot,” Park said. “Coaches told us to be strong with the ball and take good shots.”
The championship was the 12th in school history and 11th since the Maroon Knights moved to Class A.