WHEELING - Coach Penn Kurtz has not been pleased with the play on the defensive end by his Wheeling Central girls' basketball team over its last few games.
So the Maroon Knights practiced hard to turn things around during the last couple of days, and judging by the results Wednesday night against visiting Shadyside, their efforts definitely paid off.
Wheeling Central (7-5) scored the game's initial 17, including a 15-0 first quarter run, and substituded liberally in turning in an efficient 47-30 victory against the struggling, and very youthful Tigers (1-13).
With Regan Blaha and Sydney Bennington combining for nine first-quarter points, Central raced to a big advantage on the stunned Tigers. After Mackenzie Michaels made it a 17-0 count, Shadyside's Toni Andes finally ended the drought with a long three at the 7:03 mark of the first half.
Andes actually drailed three 3-pointers in the second quarter, but the visitors still found themselves on the short end of a 27-11 count at halftime. It was a 21-point margin, 39-18, after three.
"We have not been playing well defensively at all," Kurtz said. "So we have focused on that the past couple of days in practice, and I think we came out aggressive and did not foul in that first quarter.
"It was a great team job overall and I believe probably our best quarter of the season. Our theme coming out was to do what we do and not worry about anything they were doing.
"I told them afterwards that I gave them a "B" overall, because I believe we can still play better. And we will need to with a tough schedule coming up."
Blaha paced the Knights with 11 points and eight rebounds, while Bennington and Lindsey Baker each scored 10. Michael chipped in with eight.
Central had a 32-21 edge off the glass and turned the ball over eight time, half of what the Tigers committed.
"This has kind of been the story of our season," Shadyside coach Jim Miller said. "But I can tell you that these girls work hard at everything. Every game, every practice, they give it all they have and they will continue to do that.
"They have just been thrust into a position they were not ready for. But there are no excuses; they show up to play.
"The person that I feel for is Toni (Andes), our only senior. She has really rallied around this situation, which isn't easy. Toni is our leader, and she is just as frustrated if not more than anyone. I know that this is not what she envisioned for her senior season.
"But we are developing for the future and the girls are doing a good job."
While Shadyside was 1 of 1 from the foul line, it did have all five 3-point goals of the contest.