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Doddridge-Wheeling Central opener a battle of quickness

by Mike Nutter

SPORTS WRITER

Adam Cross had just stepped off the ladder from cutting down the nets after his team's 48-44 win over Harman for the Class A, Region II title.

With a piece of the net in one hand and a smile, the junior forward paused for a second in the middle of the celebration.

"This is a great feeling," he said. "It's something a lot of us have been waiting for for a long time. I know this -- no one on this team is satisfied. We've still got work to do."

And what a job it is.

Next up for Doddridge County (12-12) is Class A power Wheeling Central. The Bulldogs take on the Maroon Knights (16-7) at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Charleston Civic Center.

"I don't know a whole lot about them yet, but the one thing I do know is that they're pretty good," Doddridge County coach Dan McConnell said. "They don't make a lot of mistakes. They're very sound and well-coached. I think we may be a little bit stronger than them, but you can't make any mistakes against them."

Junior guard Clayton Fitzsimmons (5-foot-8) leads Central Catholic in scoring at 13.5 points per game. He is joined in the backcourt by seniors J.T. Richardson (5-7, 9.5 ppg) and Chris Morgan (6-0, 11 ppg).

Inside, the Maroon Knights feature forwards C.J. McCrosky (jr., 6-3, 8.8 ppg) and Michael Contraguerro (sr., 6-3, 9 ppg). Freshman David Contraguerro (5-11) comes off the bench and adds 10 ppg.

"From what I've seen of Doddridge, they like to play a lot of zone, and they do a pretty good job doing it," second-year Wheeling Central coach Joel Nau said. "Usually, we're smaller than most of the schools we play. I think we're pretty evenly matched up with (Doddridge County).

"We'll try to push the ball as much as we can and create a lot of our offense with our defense. These kids know they can't take anyone lightly now. I told them if they did, they could go ahead and get their baseball gloves out."

Nau said his team's schedule, which included Class AAA teams Wheeling Park and John Marshall, along with Parkersburg Catholic and Linsly, has helped prepare the Maroon Knights for their late-season run, which currently is at seven consecutive wins.

Junior guard Ben McKinney leads Doddridge County in scoring at 10.9 ppg, while forward Chris Mitchell (jr., 10.8 ppg) is the team's leading rebounder at 7.9 rpg.

Junior guard Chris Gum follows at 10.3 ppg, while Cross (7.3 ppg, 5.9 rpg) and center Rick Hamilton (jr., 5.2 ppg, 6.3 rpg) round out the starting lineup. Senior David Hoskinson (6 ppg, 4.5 rpg) and sophomore Brad Wilt (4.3 ppg, 4 rpg) are Doddridge County's top reserves.

"Anytime you can go to the state tournament, it's a positive experience," McConnell said. "With such a young team, though, this is really big for us. These kids have worked hard, played a tough schedule and now they deserve this. I told them to just go down there, play hard and don't make mistakes and what happens will happen."

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