WHEELING - Coming off a five-day layoff, the Linsly School girls' basketball team started a little slow during Monday night's home clash against Steubenville Catholic Central at the Stifel Field House.
The Lady Cadets trailed on two occasions and didn't take over the lead for keeps until Ava Tennant found Morgan Lee inside for an easy layup and a 9-7 advantage at the close of the first quarter.
Although both Emma Cecil and freshman Damonique Patterson had to sit out much of the first half with early foul problems, Linsly extended the defensive pressure and went on from there to defeat the struggling Crusaders 46-27.
The victory squared the Lady Cadets' record at 7-7 and had Coach Erica Hall talking about higher goals for the rest of the 2011-2012 season.
''We started off a little flat but we evened up our record and 7-7 and that was another step forward for our girls," Hall said. ''We have to get ready for a big game on Thursday when we go up to Weirton Madonna and we're now focusing on getting into the (OVAC) tournament."
Linsly, an upset winner over the Lady Blue Dons earlier this month on the home floor, entered the week as one of the top four eligible teams in the running for berths in the championship bracket of the OVAC 2A standings.
Hall likes what she is seeing out of her players and believes they can be do pretty well if they are fortunate enough to qualify for the conference semifinals.
''You can see our team is becoming more mature," she stressed. ''We are now able to count on everyone and not just rely on one or two girls."
Tom Winland, first-year coach of the Crusaders, chalked up the loss as another learning experience for his youthful team, now just 1-12 on the season.
The first quarter was the only bright spot for the Crusaders, as they outrebounded the Lady Cadets 10-3 and had leads of 3-2 on Irvin's stickback and 6-4 after Rachel Rigaud's underhand layup that also resulted in a three-point play. Rigaud's foul toss resulted in the final tie of the night at 7-7 with 1:50 remaining in the initial chapter.
''I thought in the second half they played harder than we did," Winland said. ''They have some kids who can shoot and they are pretty athletic. We have to learn from it and move on."
Patterson still was able to do her thing despite limited playing time against the Lady Crusaders. The smooth-shooting plebe, after a four-point opening quarter, hit four buckets in the third quarter and was seven of 10 overall from the floor to lead the Lady Cadets with 14 points. J.J. Jackson, the quick sophomore point guard, followed with 12 points, while Carolyn Tolbert, Linsly's only senior starter, drained a pair of trifectas the way to collecting nine points.
After playing somewhat passive in the early going, the Linsly defense began to take over during the second quarter, making it difficult for the Crusaders to get the ball up floor. Tolbert's initial triple extended the lead to 12-7 ahead of Emch's runner after a steal. Tolbert then drove the baseline, hit the layup and added the foul toss to push the lead into double figures for the first time.
Rachel Irvin's conventional three-point play with less than four minutes on the clock gave Steubenville Catholic its first points of the second quarter. But Linsly would go on to lead 19-12 at the half and then break the game open with a 15-4 spurt during the third quarter when Patterson scored eight points.
Irvin finished with eight points and six rebounds.
Linsly 46, Catholic Central 27
Catholic Central 7 5 4 11 - 27
Linsly 9 10 15 12 - 46
CATHOLIC CENTRAL: Blackburn 2-5 0-0 5; Knight 1-4 0-0 2; Mirrabella 0-5 0-0 0; Irvin 3-6 2-3 8; Rigaud 2-6 2-3 6; Parkinson 2-6 0-0 5; Parise 0-0 0-0 0; Dziewatkoski 0-0 0-0 0; Bednar 0-2 1-2 1; Totals: 10-34 5-8 27. 3-pointers: Blackburn, Parkinson.
LINSLY: Cecil 2-4 3-3 7; Patterson 7-10 0-0 14; Jackson 5-13 0-0 12; Emch 1-6 0-0 2; Tolbert 3-5 1-1 9; Tennant 0-0 0-0 0; Lee 1-2 0-0 2; Petho 0-0 0-0 0; Cunningham 0-0 0-0 0; Nwachukwu 0-0 0-0 0; Raths 0-1 0-0 0; Totals: 19-42 4-4 46. 3-pointers: Jackson 2, Tolbert 2.