CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Despite holding a comfortable lead much of the game, Charleston Catholic found itself in a tenuous spot Friday night.
With less than seven minutes left, Wheeling Central had shaved that advantage down to six points and for just a moment the game was up for grabs. But the Irish were up to the challenge.
Nick George scored half his 16 points in the final five minutes and the Irish went on an 18-4 end-game run to pick up a 62-42 victory over the Maroon Knights in front of a paid crowd of 725 at the Charleston Catholic Athletic Facility.
Zach Casto led the Irish (13-1), the state's No. 1 Class A team, by matching his career-high of 16 points without missing a shot. Point guard Garret McCarty added 13 points, seven assists and six of his team's 13 steals.
"We're starting to understand,'' said Irish coach Bill McClanahan. "Our IQ is starting to go up. When Central cut it to six and we called timeout, we understood some of the breakdowns we were having. We weren't sharing the basketball and we weren't moving on offense and we weren't finding shooters and blocking out on defense.
"We made those two adjustments, and the lead got pushed back out again. So it wasn't anything magical - just a case of going back and doing the things they knew they needed to do. We need to leave that switch back on, but they're starting to understand it.''
David Park's 3-pointer from the left corner with 6:52 remaining brought the Maroon Knights within 44-38 after they'd trailed by as many as 16 points late in the second quarter and by as many as 14 near the end of the third quarter.
David Godwin began Catholic's late push with a floater in the lane, and then George had his hand in 10 of the next 14 points - two transition feeds from Keifer Hovorka for goals, a post-up move, two free throws and a sweet dish to a cutting Hovorka to cap another fast break.
McCarty was also big in that burst, twice going coast to coast for layups, one off a rebound and another time following a steal.
"Coach told me I need to be a leader,'' McCarty said. "Things were slipping and I try to get everyone involved. We're a competitive team and I was trying to do everything I could [to hold the lead]. Defensively, I was in the right spot at the right time and I got the finish on the other end.''
Central (8-10), which had won six of its previous eight games, received 14 points from Park, 12 by freshman Chase Harler and 11 rebounds from Brandon Wallace.
"I told the kids that was the turning point,'' said Central coach Mel Stephens. "We cut it to six and they called timeout and I told them [Catholic] was going to make some adjustments to what we were doing to their zone or go man to man, and they went to man. And the next three possessions, we acted like we never saw anybody play man before. We took bad shots and they went down and converted them and it went from six to 12.