CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — Wheeling Central used an aggressive approach to get good shots and control the rebounding battle Saturday against Notre Dame, and it made all the difference for the Maroon Knights in an impressive 74-55 road victory over the Irish.
“I told the guys, it’s the first time we’ve played a full game and executed on the offensive and defensive ends what we wanted to try and do and against a very, very good opponent,” Maroon Knights’ coach Mel Stephens said. “I can’t think that does anything but give these guys a lot more confidence.”
The win was the ninth straight for Wheeling Central (14-4) since its last loss Jan. 11 at home against ND, 66-63.
With the loss, the Irish fell to 16-3 overall.
The Maroon Knights scored the final six points of the opening quarter to hold a 20-12 lead. Four of those six points came from Clayton Abate, who made two shots from close range in the latter stages of the quarter to give himself eight first-quarter points.
“It’s important to get out to a good start early, but we knew they were going to make runs,” Stephens said.
Abate picked up where he left off to start the second quarter and made the first two field goals of the frame to up the Central lead to 24-12.
ND then put together its best stretch of the contest and pulled to within 24-18 on Gabe Zummo’s conventional three-point play 4:28 before halftime.
Zummo hit a 3 a short time later to finish off an 8-0 run and tie the game at 26, and Tyler Hardesty’s 3 moments later gave the Irish what proved to be their only lead of the game at 29-28.
With the contest tied at 32, the Maroon Knights’ Jalen Creighton connected on a buzzer-beating 3 from the corner to send Central into the intermission with a three-point lead.
Although the Irish faced a narrow halftime deficit, they allowed the Maroon Knights to shoot 50 percent (16-of-32) in the opening half and hold a 21-10 rebounding advantage.
“That first half was fool’s good. It was a blessing that we were down three,” Irish coach Jarrod West said. “We didn’t get a rebound and they were more physical.”
West’s thoughts proved to be true as Central scored 14 of the game’s first 17 points in the second half to take control. J.C. Maxwell made a leaner before a Zummo trey, but Central answered with a 12-0 run that featured two 3s from Bray Price, an Abate leaner and a pair of free throws from both Maxwell and Price.
Ryan Reasbeck added a pair of 3s later in the third quarter, the second of which allowed the Maroon Knights to hold a commanding 60-40 lead after three quarters.
“The 3 at the end of the half was obviously huge and gave us a little bit of momentum going into the locker room,” Stephens said. “Our kids really executed what we wanted to try to do on both ends tonight.”
The Irish never got closer than 17 in the fourth quarter as Central maintained its distance en route to the 19-point win.
In addition to shooting better than 56 percent (31-of-55) from the field, the Maroon Knights won the battle of the boards, 36-17.
Maxwell’s 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting led Central, while Abate scored 14 points on 7-of-8 shooting.
Reasbeck finished with 14 points and a game-high nine rebounds, while Anthony Robbins added 12 points and six boards in the win.
Zummo’s 21 points led the Irish, while Tyler Hardesty scored 11 in the loss.
The loss marked Notre Dame’s first this season against a Class A opponent.
“On defense, we couldn’t keep anybody in front. Then when they’d miss a shot, we couldn’t get a rebound,” West said. “Offensively, we didn’t execute at all or shoot well. It was total domination.”