WHEELING - It never gets old and it still brings a huge smile to the face of Wheeling Central coach Penn Kurtz.
Yes, the Maroon Knights are heading back to Charleston for next week's West Virginia Class A state girls' basketball tournament after a convincing beating of Trinity on Thursday night in East Wheeling.
Seniors Colleen McCormick and Emily Bucon combined for all but 22 points as the Maroon Knights rolled to a 61-33 victory against the Warriors in a Class A co-Regional final on the Maroon Knights boards.
Central’s Colleen McCormick (3) and Cate Callissie (11) fight for a loose ball with Trinity’s Emily Evans (3).
''How about that?'' Kurtz exclaimed afterward. ''This never gets old, it is just a different group, but the same feeling.''
''This is a team with great personality that gets along great with each other. These girls work very hard and they have really earned this opportunity.''
The state tournament opens Wednesday morning, however, the Maroon Knights (21-34 will not know when and whom they play until seedings are released today.
In all, McCormick tallied eight of her game-high 23 points in the opening eight minutes while Bucon nailed a pair of 3s right out of the gate and finished with 10 of her 16 in the first.
''We have kind of been waiting on Emily to catch fire a little bit after she hurt her knee earlier this season and Colleen also got injured,'' Kurtz added. ''It has just been a matter of finding a rhythm, and I think Emily finally found hers in the first quarter. When she is making threes like that, she is awfully hard to guard.
''As for Colleen, what can you say about a girl who is averaging 22 points a game and shooting 55 percent from the floor, 46 percent from behind the arc and 86 percent from the free-throw line? I don't what else you can expect from a player.''
An early 10-4 lead was bumped to a 12-point margin on a 6-0 Central burst that turned into an 18-6 lead after one. A basket from Maria Olson at 6:58 of the second was the first points scored by someone other than McCormick or Bucon for the hosts.
The Knights began the second on an 11-3 run that extended the margin to 29-9 before settling for a 31-13 score at the break. With most of the Central bench already having played at some point, it turned into a 49-28 count after three and turned into nothing more than a waiting game for the Maroon Knights' eventual celebration.
''We wanted to come out running a little bit because we knew that we could use our depth to our advantage and that they were not very deep,'' Kurtz said. ''And when we got running we got some quick, fast and easy baskets. Their half-court zone is tough, but we got to where they were having trouble setting up in it.''
While no other player scored more than four points for the Maroon Knights, they did have 10 players dent the scoring column with McCormick pulling down a team-high nine rebounds. Neither McCormick or Bucon scored in the fourth quarter.
Junior Jackie Halapy paced Trinity with 11 points and a game-high 15 rebounds, but Central grabbed a 32-27 edge off the glass while the Knights had four less turnovers than the Warriors' 19.
The Maroon Knights have advanced to the state championship game five times since the 2003 season, twice bringing the gold back to Wheeling. And while Kurtz's squad lost to four-time state champion Huntington St. Joe's, 57-49, in last year's final, they are the only reason the Irish have not won five in a row, having beat them 41-37 in the '08 finals.
St. Joe's again enters the state tournament as the team to beat in Class A.