WHEELING - John Marshall basketball coach Bill Storm had a succinct explanation for the Monarchs problems during Wednesday night's 63-51 loss to Wheeling Central Catholic.
''You can't score four points in a quarter of a high school basketball game and expect to win," Storm said as he stood outside his team's locker room.
After a well-played, competitive first half in which John Marshall trailed by just 33-30, the Monarchs and Maroon Knights traded baskets to start the third quarter as Central's David Park threaded the needle to Chance Siebieda for a layup and Tanner Filben countered with a short baseline jumper at the other end.
John Marshall’s Dustin Whitfield (11) takes a shot over Wheeling Central’s Brandon Wallace (44) during their game Wednesday night in Wheeling.
Central then exploded exploded on an 11-0 run and allowed the visitors just two more points the remainder of the third quarter to put the game out of reach. The Maroon Knights outscored John Marshall 20-4 during the period to open a 53-34 advantage heading into the final eight minutes. Early in the fourth quarter, the lead was extended to 23 points at 57-34, allowing the hosts to put things in cruise control the rest of the way.
The victory not only assured Coach Mel Stephens' club a sweep of the season series against John Marshall, it also improved Central's overall record to 7-8.
''The beginning of the third quarter was obviously the key," pointed out Stephens. ''John Marshall played well in the first half. They made some shots and kind of forced us to shoot a lot of jump shots from the perimeter. We came out in the third quarter and got on a pretty good run to get the lead. Once we got it out there, all we had to do was play even the rest of the way," Stephens.
It was also Senior Night for the Maroon Knights. The five graduating members of the 2012-2013 Central squad were honored prior to tipoff and then given the opportunity to start the game as a unit. Later, with the victory well in hand, Stephens took them out of the game one-by-one where they received hugs from the coaches and their teammates on the bench.
''In my 10 years here, I think this was the first time I had a chance to do that," Stephens explained. ''It made it kind of special for those guys and I was really pleased that all of them contributed to the win tonight."
Brian Felton, one of the five seniors making a final regular season home appearance, nailed a game-tying triple early in the first quarter and added another trifecta starting the second quarter to extend Central's 16-10 lead out to nine points. Brandon Wallace's six points and three of his four rebounds came during the third-quarter blitz while Siebieda and Justin Hammers tossed in six and five points, respectively.
Both teams had success firing away from the outside during the opening half as the Maroon Knights cashed six three-pointers and John Marshall nailed five shots from behind the arc, two each from Derek Och and Evan Magers while Dustin Whitfield also buried a triple. Central's first half treys came from Felton and David Park with two each, plus and one each by Chase Harler and David Stanley.
The Maroon Knights enjoyed as much as a 10-point advantage at 29-19 after Stanley's three-pointer midway through the second quarter before the Monarchs rallied to get within 33-30 when Magers came off a screen and buried his buzzer-beating shot from the right wing.
''Right after we had a positive ending to the half, we go out and score just four points in the third quarter," sighed Storm. ''We didn't block out on free throws twice and they made us pay by getting the rebounds and hitting three-point shots. We also missed two dead layups. Those are the things that have been hurting us all year," Storm added.
Although the struggling Monarchs saw their record drop to 3-8, Magers provided a bright spot by scoring 17 points. His big night included a 9-of-10 effort from the free-throw line. However, he was the only John Marshall player with a made foul shot as the rest of his teammates missed all five attempts.
Harler had another fine night for the Maroon Knights. The 6-2 freshman backcourter scored 18 points, including eight points in both the first and third quarters. Park also reached double digits with 13 points.
Racking up its fourth victory in the last five games after a 3-7 start, Central is now setting its sights on reaching the .500 mark and bolstering its chances of earning a berth in the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Class 2A playoffs.
''We're getting there (.500)," Stephens said. ''We had a shot to do it last week but stubbed our toes a little bit. Even earlier in the year when we were struggling to win games, I saw signs that we were starting to come along."
The Maroon Knights have a couple of huge road hurdles this weekend with games against Linsly School on Friday night and Magnolia the following evening. Both teams defeated Central earlier this season.
John Marshall also swings back into action tomorrow evening when it returns to the home court to play Brooke.