WEIRTON - Madonna got a big game from freshman Monica Bragg and outscored the Steubenville Catholic Central girls 8-2 in the last three minutes of the game to pull out a 46-42 come-from-behind win at the Bill Barrett Gymnasium Thursday night.
The game was nip and tuck throughout, but the Lady Blue Dons, who were winning their fourth game of the season, held onto the lead until Central (4-7) forged ahead early in the fourth quarter.
The Lady Crusaders out goaled Madonna 20-15, but came up empty on only two foul shots while the Lady Dons nailed 11 of 20 free throws for the win.
BOXING OUT — Steubenville Catholic Central’s Micca Mirabella boxes out Madonna’s Nicolette Sellitti during the Crusaders’ 46-42 loss to the Blue Dons Thursday in Weirton.
-- Fred Younce
FOR TWO — Madonna’s Nicolette Sellitti goes up for two in front of teammate Cameron Dowiak during the Blue Dons’ 46-42 win over Steubenville Catholic Central Thursday in Weirton.
-- Fred Younce
"Foul shooting has not been one of our strengths, but we're getting better and tonight, when we needed it, it was there," said Madonna coach, Don Ogden. "It was a game of runs, It was a hard fought battle. Both teams laid everything on the line tonight, but, fortunately, we came out on top."
Madonna played the entire second half without the services of its only returning starter from a year ago, senior Nicolette Sellitti, who sustained an injury at home on Wednesday. Ogden said he was unaware of the injury before the game so she was in her customary spot in the starting lineup, but had to yield due to the injury.
Without her, the Blue Dons turned to Bragg, who responded with a breakout game and a career-high 21 points. She also had six steals and four rebounds to round out an impressive evening.
The other factor in the game was turnovers - 30 of them for the Lady Crusaders.
"Turnovers were the difference tonight," said Central coach Tom Winland. "We had about 30 turnovers and when you do it that many times you're not going to win many games.
"We didn't attack the one-three-one the way we could have, but I'm very happy with the way we played defensively and offensively except for the turnovers. When we get our turnovers down, we'll start to win some games. If we continue to turn the ball over at that high of a rate, then we're going to struggle."
With Bragg scoring 13 of her points in the first half, the Blue Dons went to the locker room with a 24-19 lead at halftime, but the Crusaders began chipping away at the lead in the third quarter.
"Bragg had a breakout game and I'm glad for her," Ogden explained. "She has missed some games with injuries, but she came through when we needed her tonight. A lot of times we put her in situations where she forced the shot, but that was because of what we were wanting to run with her, but she played hard. She played a lot of minutes and, hopefully, that pays off for us down the road."
Madonna went into the final stanza clinging to a 35-31 lead, but from the 1:20 mark of the third quarter to 4:08 in the fourth, the Crusaders went on a 13-3 run that armed them with a 40-38 lead.
Central senior Rachel Irvin led the rally, scoring six of her team high 14 points. Irvin also led all rebounders with seven off the glass.
After Irvin ran out on transition and waltzed to the basket for a layup off of a nice bounce pass feed from Rachel Rigaud, Ogden called a time out with 2:57 left in the game.
Coming out of the timeout, freshman Isabella Rosso found nothing but net on a bomb from the wing to ignite the game winning Madonna run.
"I thought we were real stagnant in our half court offense, so a called a timeout to run a set play," said Ogden. The primary option we wanted wasn't there, but the secondary option was and Rosso hit the three. I thought that was one of the big keys to the game."
After Rosso hit her three that enabled Madonna to retrieve the lead at 41-40, Bragg got the last of her six steals and drove all the way for a layup.
Sophomore point guard Cameron Dowiak eased the pressure some more making three of four free throws in a one plus one situation.
Irvin stopped the run with a 10-foot jumper from the left of the basket with 11 seconds left. Winland got a timeout and Central fouled Bragg on the inbounds play, but she missed both free throws in the double bonus.
Central got the rebound with 9.1 seconds left in the game, but was unable to get a shot off before the final buzzer.
Rosso came off the bench to hit three shots from behind the arc for nine points to back up Bragg.
Junior Micca Mirabella backed up Irvin with 12 points.
Madonna takes it's 4-6 record to Oak Glen Saturday for a 6 p.m. jayvee start. Meanwhile, the Lady Crusaders also hit the road Saturday with a noon start at Conotton Valley.
Madonna 46, CCHS 42
CCHS: Knight 1 0-0 3, Irvin 7 0-2 14, Rigaud 2 0-0 4, Mirabella 6 0-0 12, Dziewiatkoski 1 0-0 2, Parkinson 2 0-0 5, Ondo 1 0-0 2. Totals: 20 0-2 42. Three-pointers: Knight, Parkinson; Rebounds: 29 (Irvin, 7); Turnovers: 30.
MADONNA: Dowiak 0 5-8 5, Rosso 3 0-1 9, Sellitti 1 1-2 3, Platek 2 0-0 4, Davis 2 0-1 4, Bragg 7 5-8 21. Totals: 15 11-20 46. Three-pointers: Rosso (3), Bragg (2); Rebounds: 17 (Platek, 5); Turnovers: 16.