WHEELING - It only takes three words to describe the play of Chase Harler, Wheeling Central's 6-foot-2 point guard.
He got game.
Saturday afternoon, with his fellow high-scoring junior scoring partner David Park forced to miss extended playing time because of foul problems, Harler picked up the mantle and fired in 30 points as a suddenly hot Wheeling Central club knocked off visiting Morgantown Trinity Christian 65-57.
It was Harler's second 30-point effort of the week after having scored 34 on Tuesday night when the Maroon Knights lost 71-64 to city rival Wheeling Park.
With Park on the bench during the entire second quarter after picking up two early fouls, Harler banged in 13 points to help the Maroon Knights open a 33-20 lead. In the fourth quarter with the game hanging in the balance against the rallying Warriors, the 6-foot-2 Plebe added 10 more points, six straight coming after the advantage had been sliced to 49-45.
''Chase is definitely not your typical freshman," Stephens said. ''He plays the game all the time and works extremely hard at it.''
The victory was the second over a quality opponent in less than 24 hours for Coach Mel Stephens' Maroon Knights and their fourth victory overall this season in 11 games. Friday night, Central broke a four-game losing streak with a 58-42 revenge verdict over 9-4 record Conotton Valley. Trinity Christian came to town looking for its 10th win of the season but headed home with its record now at 9-4.
Stephens admitted being concerned about his team's energy following warmups on Saturday. His pleas for them to get back up did not go unheeded as the Maroon Knights came out strong on both ends of the court to lead 13-7 after the first quarter. With Harler leading the way, Central went up by 17 points at 33-16 before leaving the court at the break with the 13-point advantage.
''We hit a little bit of a wall in the third quarter but then we picked it back up in the fourth quarter and made plays when we had to make them," Stephens said.
The Warriors showed their ability to get off the deck in the third quarter behind a 3-point barrage. Samuel Rondy gunned in three straight triples, all while stationed at the top of the circle. Then 6-7senior standout Cody Triplett buried a pair of treys to put the Warriors out in front.
Triplett, Trinity Chrstian's leading scorer with 18 points, ied the score at 36-36 with a triple in transition after a Central turnover. Park, who still was able to contribute heavily to the offense during the second half when he fired in 14 of his 18 points, cashed two at the foul line only to see Triplett gain the lead at 39-38 after hitting nothing but net with another 3-pointer.
Brandon Wallace cashed the front end of a two-shot foul to tie the score again for the Maroon Knights. Wallace missed the second shot but leaping in to grab the rebound was Chance Siebieda, who found Park along the baseline for a layin also drawing a foul. Park completed the conventional 3-point play by swishing the free throw as the Maroon Knights went back in front to stay at 42-39.
Park's 10-point third quarter also included a triple from the right wing and a layup off the window at the buzzer that increased Central's lead to 49-41 heading into the final eight minutes.
After the Warriors trimmed the deficit to four points, the two baskets and a pair of free throws by Harler put the game out of reach.
Trinity Coach Herman Pierson said he was proud of his team's effort in erasing the 17-point first-half deficit.
''We have to execute better to win these kind of games," Pierson said. ''My guys have to learn when not to be in a hurry. Once we took the lead, we didn't have to be in such of a hurry."
Supporting Triplett in the Trinity scoring were Rondy and Anthony Ghiardi with 13 and10 points, respectively.
Prior to the game, members and coaches on Wheeling Central's 2003 West Virginia Class A state championship team and coaches were honored for having completed back-to-back state championships season. Stephens was an assistant on the 2003 staff that was led by David Wojcik, now an assistant coach at Boise State University. Wojcik, a Wheeling Central alumnus, also played on the Maroon Knights' 1987 title-winning team.
Players on hand for the 10-year reunion were Eric Belancic, Joel Moses, Eric Novick, Chris Stephens, Nathan Peluchette and Nathan Tucker. Other team members not able to attend Saturday's festivities were Steve Skrzypek, David Contraguerro, Nick Anthony, Eric Woduskey, Chris Zambito and Paul McCormick.
Central went back-to-back state titles in 2002 and 2003 before Mel Stephens was promoted to the head coaching position and he helped the Maroon Knights extend the state championship run to four straight when his first two teams brought back the big trophy in 2004 and 2005.