CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Jarrod West, Jr. scored 35 points as Notre Dame eliminated top seed Wheeling Central 73-51 on Friday afternoon, advancing into the Class A boys basketball state championship game.
“I said the other day that you have to knock the bully out,” said head coach Jarrod West. “The way Noah Bohanna played in the first quarter – the stats might not show it – but the deflections and energy (from him), this team is built on tempo and energy with deflections and steals.
“We knew we could beat them, it was just a matter of finishing,” West said. “These kids came out and finished. We’re excited to come out of here with a win.”
Notre Dame let second half leads slip away back in December and January against the Maroon Knights – but that wasn’t the case on Friday as West finished 11 for 21 from the floor and hit 9 of 11 free throw attempts.
“I think I got going a lot earlier in this game and we set the tone from a defensive stand-point, which energized the team,” West, Jr. said. “We were able to get good stops and clean rebounds, which led to a lot of transition opportunities.”
The No. 4 Irish (22-5) shot 50 percent from the floor in the first half and scored 17 points off of 11 Wheeling Central turnovers. Notre Dame led 40-26 at the break behind West’s 19 points.
A Todd Griffith bucket in the second half pushed Notre Dame’s lead out to 19-points, 53-34, with 1:19 to go in the third.
The Irish won the rebounding battle 42-24 as Griffith finished with 10 of those boards.
Gabe Zummo added 14 points for the Irish in the win. Wheeling Central (24-3) was led by Owen Gainer’s 17 points.
“We knew that we had come back big (against Notre Dame) before,” said Wheeling Central coach Mel Stephens. “But the way things were going in the first half, unless we could cut it under 10, I didn’t think we were ever going to get (back in it). They were playing so well and we weren’t. We got it down to 12 a couple of times, but couldn’t get it any closer than that.”
It’s a Notre Dame team that has now won 12-straight games and felt disrespected with the No. 4 seed coming into the tournament.
“We’ve been through too much to not get to this point,” West, Jr. said. “We came into the state tournament with a chip on our shoulder – we didn’t really feel like we should have been a four.
“Our losses down here my sophomore and junior years were demoralizing and heartbreaking,” West, Jr. said. “But being seeded a four didn’t sit well with me or the rest of the team. We won our regional championship game, found out the seed in the locker room and it felt like we lost. The two losses (in the state tournament the last two years), along with (our seed this year) have definitely weighed on us for a long time.”
Notre Dame, looking for its first boys basketball title, will face Ravenswood Saturday at noon for the Class A championship.
“It’s not easy to get to Charleston,” West said. “All of the above has been motivation. Being the seniors’ last go-around, all of that has been involved. We’re excited for the opportunity (Saturday). We’re going to come in, do what we do and hopefully bring home the championship.”
MetroNews will have live video streaming of all three title games Saturday at the MetroNews Channel of WVMetroNews.com.