WHEELING - If Bishop Donahue was going to have any chance of upsetting Wheeling Central on Tuesday night, Coach Don Gillis said his team had to set the tone early.
The Maroon Knights scored the first 10 points of the game and cruised from there, securing a 65-31 triumph in a girls' West Virginia Class A Region One, Section One semifinal on its home court.
Bishop Donahue’s Kelsey Schau (13) dribbles down court to set up a play while being guarded by Wheeling Central’s Maria Olson (2) Tuesday night.
Wheeling Central earned a spot opposite Magnolia in Friday night's sectional championship game at Brooke High School. Tipoff is at 7. The Blue Eagles edged Madonna, 47-44, in Tuesday's other semifinal in New Martinsville.
The winner of Friday's game will play host to a Region One Co-Final on Thursday, Feb. 28, while the loser will hit the road for the other the same night.
''They're a darn good team,'' Gillis said. ''(Wheeling Central coach) Penn (Kurtz) does a great job with them.
''It's been the same thing all year. We turn the ball over. Can't hit shots. Can't rebound.''
There was a little bit of all of that during the opening moments as the Maroon Knights took control.
Maria Olson scored both of her buckets during the spurt, while Emily Bucon and Colleen McCormick also chipped in.
Kelsey Schau and Selena Ghaphery hit back-to-back baskets midway through the period to stem the tide temporarily, but Wheeling Central went on a 9-0 run to end the quarter with a 19-5 advantage.
Central's opening salvo was just the type of tournament start Kurtz envisioned.
''The last time we played them (at the Undo's Tournament in December) they gave us a tussle because they play so well defensively,'' he said.
''But we started strong, especially on the defensive end and that's what I liked. We held them to 10 points in the first half (Central led 36-10 at halftime) and anytime you can play like that you're going to be in good shape.''
Wheeling Central (19-4) was never threatened, despite improved second-half play by the Bishops. By then, there just wasn't enough time to mount a comeback.
''They're defense is so tough,'' Gillis said. ''We told the girls all week to look for the pump fake and look for the drive and we didn't do it.
''It all catches up with you.''
Ghaphery paced the Bishops (7-16) with 14 points.
Meanwhile, the Maroon Knights boasted only two double-figure scorers - Bucon (15) and McCormick (13) - but picked up 29 bench points, paced by Regan Blaha's nine.
Kurtz emptied his bench late and 12 of 14 players scored.
''We had great support off the bench,'' he said. ''I think everyone that got in the game did something well.
''And, really, when you get into tournament time, that's what you need.
''Your bench is going to be a big key because something will likely happen along the way where they will need to be ready to play. And they were ready to play (Tuesday).''