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Wheeling Central completes weekend sweep

Lawrence Pierce
Sissonville's Madison Jones puts up a shot over Wheeling Central's Colleen McCormick (3) and Regan Blaha.
SISSONVILLE, W.Va. -- Wheeling Central has put the band back together and the hits are starting to come again.Senior post player Colleen McCormick turned in 22 points and 19 rebounds to propel the Class A Maroon Knights past AA Sissonville 52-38 Saturday afternoon as they won both of their games on their annual southern swing through the Kanawha Valley. A crowd of about 200 attended the girls high school basketball matchup of state-ranked teams.After trailing 29-21 at halftime, the Indians (11-5), who are seventh in this week's AA Associated Press poll, pulled within three points twice in the third quarter, the last time on freshman guard Karli Pinkerton's two free throws to close to 36-33 with 1:51 to go.The Maroon Knights' experience and inside presence won out, though, as senior wing Emily Bucon drove in for a layup, McCormick converted a putback and then, after Indians freshman guard Madison Jones drained a 3-pointer, Bucon answered with a three-point play on a layup and foul shot with 4.2 seconds left for a 43-36 advantage.The Knights pulled away in the fourth quarter by limiting the Indians to two points on 1-of-12 shooting.Central (15-2), No. 2 in Class A, won 12 straight before McCormick missed a few games with a high-ankle sprain and Bucon tore her anterior cruciate ligament in early January. This weekend was the first time the Knights had their lineup intact since Jan. 7."It feels good,'' said the 5-foot-10 McCormick, who totaled 21 points and 17 rebounds in a win at Charleston Catholic on Friday. "We enjoy playing with each other and there's definitely a lot of passion and heart."It's fun. It feels a lot better having us all healthy and back on the court. We all click when we're together. When we had starters out of games the other players had an opportunity to step up and get better and improve. It'll help us in the long run.''Central's Bucon finished with eight points and four rebounds and sophomore forward Regan Blaha added eight points and three boards. The Knights harassed the Indians into 23.1 percent (12 of 52) shooting, including a 3-of-19 effort from long range, and used their size advantage for a 38-21 edge off the boards."I thought we played with more intensity,'' said Central coach Penn Kurtz, who guided the Knights to a runner-up finish in last year's Class A state championship game. "I thought our defensive intensity was where it needed to be. I was very pleased.
"We're still a little rusty on offense. You're starting to see Emily come out of it and go to the basket at times. All in all I think it was a pretty good trip. Just getting Colleen and Emily back on the court is a bonus for us. We were going through the motions the last two or three games and I think we kind of found it a little bit. Hopefully we'll build on that.''Sissonville's Jones finished with 18 points but shot just 5 of 25 overall and 2 of 10 on 3-pointers. She was the only Sissonville player in double figures."We weren't ourselves,'' said Sissonville coach Rich Skeen. "That sickness, we've had it for three weeks now. We had three girls just sicker than dogs."That's no excuse, you've got to play through it. They have been. It didn't seem like our team out there. We didn't have that extra gear. Maybe we learned something from it and we'll get better.''The young Indians, who sport three freshmen and a sophomore in the starting lineup, have racked up some impressive wins so far against AA No. 4 Clay County, Scott, which has played in the AA state title game the last three years, and Class A No. 8 Valley.
"I think we've got so many young girls and it's a long season,'' said the Indians coach. "They've never played this long. You're just getting over that hump and they're learning and finding out what it's about. The sky's still the limit. We're still OK.''McCormick and her teammates hope battling through the injuries and playing tough opponents on the road will be a formula to get back to the Civic Center in March to battle for another state title."We got to see some good competition [this weekend],'' she said. "It's a good experience playing on Friday and waking up on Saturday. It helps you prepare for what's down the road. We're here to play and we're here to win. We'll see. We're getting better every single game.''Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at or 304-348-4811. 
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