CHARLESTON, W.Va. – No. 1 Wheeling Central made quick work of No. 8 Valley (Fayette) in Wednesday’s boys basketball Class A state tournament quarterfinals, running away with a 67-52 victory.
The Maroon Knights (24-2) used a pair of early 7-0 runs to take an 18-5 lead after the first quarter. Wheeling Central led 42-11 at the half.
“In the first half, we played as well as we did all year, really,” said Wheeling Central coach Mel Stephens. “We executed the game plan and did everything that we wanted to do. We played really well. It’s a little bit natural after halftime, when you have a 31-point lead to not be as aggressive or as focused as you need to be.”
With Wheeling Central’s reserves in the game during the third quarter, Valley (16-11) went on an 18-1 run to cut its deficit to 50-37 entering the fourth.
Most of the Wheeling Central starters returned in the fourth as the Maroon Knights closed out the 15-point win.
“Our plan was that the (reserves) were going to play some of the third quarter and we were going to come back with the starters anyway, just to give those guys a little bit more playing time,” Stephens said. “They were expecting to go back in.”
Brent Price led the Maroon Knights with 16 points, while John Burkhalter scored 14 points in the win. Burkhalter played only nine minutes and hit 6 of 7 shots, including two makes from 3.
“In warm-ups I was just thinking back to last year and how I had a pretty good start and I wanted to have that start again,” Burkhalter said. “I was focused all throughout warm-ups, trying to get my shots up and get the right movements going.”
Valley was led by Spencer Dean’s 21 points as he scored 16 of those in the second half.
“We were kind of slow in the first half and Coach just told us to have fun,” Dean said. “We didn’t want to get into a running game with them at first, but we felt like we had to. It just wasn’t enough.”
The state tournament run overall was a significant mark for the young Greyhounds after finishing just 4-16 a season ago.
“We put in the work in the offseason and we were very young last year with no seniors,” Dean said. “It was a good experience. We walked into the Civic Center locker room like we were walking into an NBA arena. The atmosphere was great and I give the credit to the fans. They have supported us all year. We hope to get more wins next year and come back.”
Wheeling Central on Friday at 1 p.m. will face either No. 4 Notre Dame or No. 5 Gilmer County in the semifinals.