WHEELING, W.Va. — Wheeling Central reclaimed its seat of Class A supremacy with its 2014 boys basketball state championship run. The title was Central’s first since 2009 and seventh since 2002.
“This group of kids had never won one,” said Wheeling Central head coach Mel Stephens. “It was pretty special for them.”
The road to Central’s state championship wasn’t necessarily the easiest as the Maroon Knights needed overtime to edge eight seed Parkersburg Catholic in the quarterfinals, 59-57. After a 17-point semifinal win over Clay-Battelle, it took double-overtime to beat Charleston Catholic in the championship game.
“I felt coming in that Parkersburg Catholic was much better than your normal eight seed, because they played half of the year without one of their better players,” Stephens said. “We were expecting a tough game and they came out and played really well.
“I don’t know if it was jitters or what on our part, but we didn’t play our best game,” he continued. “But to my kids’ credit, we found a way to hang around and just made enough plays to keep it close for a while before we finally made a couple of plays in overtime to pull out the win.”
The championship game matchup with Charleston Catholic, meanwhile, marked the fifth time those two teams had met in the title game since 2005.
“It’s been pretty special between us and them,” Stephens said. “It’s always a good contest and Coach McClanahan has done such a great job with their program down there to get to that level. They came out in the first quarter and played really well and we didn’t play great. But just like in the quarterfinal game, we found a way to stay close.”
The end result was a 64-55 double-overtime championship win for Stephens’ club as Central continues to leave its mark as one of the top Class A athletic programs in the state overall.
“This year’s title run was pretty similar (to the others),” Stephens said. “We’ve struggled in games at times (in Charleston). But this group was pretty focused – no one really expected us to get down there last year, and we came down there last year as a seven seed, upending Magnolia before we lost to Charleston Catholic in the semifinals. They came back pretty focused this year and pretty determined to get back there and finish their business – we were able to do that.”
As for next year, the Maroon Knights lose six seniors overall, including four starters from this year’s team.
“We’re going to miss those guys, but we do have a pretty good nucleus coming back in Chase Harler who led us in scoring this year,” Stephens said. “Brian Campbell and Boyd Bibey will have to step up and fill some shoes as well. We’re hoping to pick up where we left off, get on another little run and try to get (to the state tournament) again.”