ST. CLAIRSVILLE - St. Clairsville got almost everything it wanted from its game against invading Columbus Africentric.
The Red Devils played in front of a packed house against a quality opponent, but Nubians' standout player Kenny Robinson sent the crowd home unhappy when he connected on a three-point bomb from well beyond NBA range to give Africentric a 61-58 victory.
"It was a street fight and that's what we knew it would be," said St. C. head coach Kim Clifford. "That kind of game is exactly why we scheduled (Africentric). We value the experience of playing in a game where every possession is huge."The Red Devils (1-1) will return to Buckeye 8 play on Tuesday when Buckeye Local visits.
While the game may eventually prove beneficial down the road, the Red Devils aren't into moral victories.
"I don't look at any loss as a good loss," Clifford said. "I know I don't want to lose; the kids don't want to lose and the (assistant) coaches don't want to lose. I think it can be a very good learning experience and that's what we're going to take it as."
The loss snaps St. Clairsville's 23-game home-court winning streak. Weir High was the last invading team to hand the Devils a loss on John Jenkins Court.
Africentric 61, St. Clairsville 58
Africentric 10 21 16 14 - 61
St. Clairsville 19 16 14 9 - 58
AFRICENTRIC: Saunders 5, 0-3 10; Tucker 7, 0-1 15; Cornish 2, 0-0 5; Harrison 4, 4-6 12; Smith 0, 1-2 1; Robinson 4, 4-4 13; Manzie 2, 1-1 5; Totals: 24, 10-17 61. 3-pointers: Cornish, Robinson.
ST. CLAIRSVILLE: Marhefka 3, 0-0 9; Jeffries 4, 0-0 11; Giffin 0, 0-0 0; Monteroso 8, 8-8 25; Carlton 3, 2-2 10; Campbell 1, 0-0 3; Burghy 0, 0-0 0; Totals: 19, 10-10 58. 3-pointers: Marhefka 3, Jeffries 3, Carlton 2, Campbell, Monteroso.
The Red Devils appeared to be on the verge of heading to a 2-0 start.
After a triple from senior Riley Carlton and a nifty reverse layup from senior Dan Monteroso, the Devils found themselves with a 54-47 upperhand.
However, as they'd done repeatedly all evening, the Nubians stayed calm, played within themselves and began to chip away.
"Every possession was so critical tonight," Clifford said. "I don't know if it was fatigue or what, but there were times we didn't take care of the ball on every possession. You also have to get good looks every possession. But, give Africentric's kids credit because they took it in there, got a couple of clutch steals and rebounds that they needed to get back into the game."
The Nubians scored 11 unanswered points, but got a little bit conservative and St. C. was able to tie the game at 58 with just under 30 seconds to go on a Monteroso leaner.
Despite having three timeouts in his pocket, Africentric head coach Michael Bates elected to let his players run it through. They worked the ball into the frontcourt, seemingly had no offense started before Robinson got free and fired the game winner.
"That's the cruelty of basketball," Clifford said of Robinson's shot.
St. Clairsville, which hit 10 triples in the game, led 19-10 after one and thanks to a banked in trey at the horn by senior Jerrid Marhefka, the Devils led 35-31 at the intermission.
Monteroso and senior Adam Jeffries carried the load in the third for the Devils, but the Nubians made it a 49-47 St. C. lead after three.
Monteroso - the Boston College football verbal - led all scorers with 25 points. Jeffries went for 11 and Carlton finished with 10. Marhefka donated nine.
The Franklin County combine was paced by senior Cyquil Tucker's 15. Robinson, who battled foul trouble in the first half, finished with 13 points and five rebounds. Trevon Saunders, who was a thorn in the Devils' side on both ends, added 10.