CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Class A No. 2 Wheeling Central trailed in the second half against seventh-seeded Ritchie County before pulling away in the fourth quarter for a 58-47 quarterfinal win Wednesday.
Freshman Eden Gainer scored 18 points to lead the Maroon Knights (25-1), while Riley Bennington added 15 points. Gainer hit three 3s, while Bennington added a pair of made shots from beyond the arc.
“We were down and needed some big shots,” Bennington said. “I was willing to take that shot to help our team.”
Kaylee Reinbeau finished with a double-double for the Maroon Knights, scoring 10 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.
“Ritchie County played a great game today,” said Wheeling Central coach Penn Kurtz. “They gave us everything we could handle. We just couldn’t seem to get a ball to go in the basket for three quarters and then all of the sudden they started dropping.”
Ritchie County (18-8) led 26-22 at the half, forcing 10 Wheeling Central turnovers, and extended that lead out to 31-24 at the 3:32 mark of the third quarter.
Wheeling Central responded with a 9-0 run to take a 33-31 lead into the fourth.
“They just started making some shots,” said Ritchie County coach Dave McCullough. “We had some untimely turnovers and they hit the boards harder in the second half, which gave them some second chance points that they didn’t get in the first half.”
Wheeling Central shot just 33 percent in the first quarter, 25 percent in the second, 24 percent in the third and 55 percent in the fourth. The Maroon Knights scored 25 points off 23 Ritchie County turnovers and out-rebounded the Rebels 40-33.
“We had to change the pace of the game, that’s why we went to our press,” Kurtz said. “We got the tempo up a little bit and tried to get some easier buckets in transition. And then we had to hit some outside shots.”
Cassie Tallman scored 17 points for Ritchie County in the loss as the Rebels made their first state tournament appearance since 2007.
“We had a lot more momentum in the first half,” Tallman said. “I can’t be mad at us, because we tried our best. We were the underdogs coming into the game and we didn’t really have anything to lose. We gave it our all, and that was our all.”
Wheeling Central moves on to face No. 6 Williamstown in the semifinals on Friday at 9:30 a.m.
“We’ve had some classic battles with Williamstown over the years,” Kurtz said. “They’re just relentless. They’re going to take you up and down the court. You have to take their best shot and give it back to them. Their point guard is probably one of the best in the state. We’re going to have to defend the basket much better if we want to stay in that game on Friday.”