BELLAIRE - Senior Kristen Russell made her points count when her team needed them and freshman Lindsey Froehlich dominated the inside by grabbing rebounds, swatting away shots and just getting in the way.
Their efforts paved the way as St. John Central's second-seeded Lady Irish punched their ticket for the OVAC Class 1A championship game with a 42-31 win over a very good Madonna Lady Blue Dons squad on the Irish boards Wednesday night.
Winning over the Lady Blue Dons for the second time this season, coach Bubba Kapral's Lady Irish moved into the 1A title game of the OVAC-Wheeling Hospital Girls' Basketball Championships on Saturday. Kapral's group will battle the Conotton Valley-Trinity Christian winner in the 8 p.m. finale.
TO THE LINE — Madonna’s Katie Lammers is fouled as she goes up for a shot by a St.?John?Central defender during the Blue Dons’ 42-31 loss to the Irish Wednesday in?Bellaire.
-- Seth Staskey
St. John Central improved to 15-6 with the win. They came into the playoffs as the second-seed.
Coach Don Ogden's Lady Blue Dons dropped to 9-11 on the season with the loss. They will take on the loser of the Conotton Valley-Trinity matchup in the consolation finals on their home court.
St. John came out smoking in the first period and appeared to be headed to a blow-out. The Lady Irish could do no wrong in jumping out to a 17-0 lead, while Madonna was having problems getting anything to go right.
Russell, Kaydie Coppa, freshman Marissa Rose, Jessica Alvey and Froehlich combined to outpoint the visitors by 17-0 at the outset before Katie Lammers dropped in one free throw and Nicollette Sellitti added two more at the 1:20 mark of the frame for Madonna. Caitlin Sliva netted a deuce to close the frame and hand the Lady Irish a 19-3 lead at the break.
In the second session, Rose converted a layup, and after Monica Bragg cashed one of two at the stripe for the visitors Rose pushed the lead to 22-4 at the line. Madonna then went on a 10-0 run, getting a two-pointer and trey from Isabella Rosso and scores from Becca Holt and Sellitti to cut the gap to 22-14. Rose's two at the line closed the half with a 24-14 Lady Irish lead.
"Madonna has a very good team," Kapral said after the win. "They have two really great players, but I knew we would come out and play well against them. Of course, I didn't think we would come out and run out to a 17-0 lead."
"We knew they would make a run, but we played well," the Lady Irish coach added. "It's hard to jump out to a 17-0 lead and not expect them to make a run. There were times out there when we weren't playing real smart, but our defense stepped us that helped.
"I'm very happy with this," Kapral said. "These (OVAC) games are a lot of fun. This is the way it is supposed to be. We are happy to be moving on to play on Saturday. This was a great way for our two seniors to finish out their careers here."
In the second half, the teams battled evenly, but it was the scoring of Russell in the third with eight of her team's 10 that kept the Lady Blue Dons at bay.
Russell converted three straight from the field early in the session that handed the hosts a 30-16 lead. The winners lead by 34-24 at the final break.
Rose opened the fourth with a deuce and Froehlich scored off a nice pass from Russell to push their lead to 38-24. Madonna's hopes for a comeback were throttled by a strong effort on the boards by Froehlich who grabbed six rebounds in the session.
"When you don't come ready to play and they do, that's what happens," coach Ogden said after the tough loss.
"That's my fault. I've got to have them better prepared for a game like this."
"Give St. John Central all the credit," he added. "They were able to disrupt us and get us out of our rhythm and take us out of our half-court game.
Russell closed with a game-high 12 points to go with nine rebounds and three assists. Rose followed close behind with 11 counters. Froehlich added six points, 10 rebounds and seven blocked shots. Emily Lemasters had seven boards.
Bragg led Madonna with nine points and four rebounds while Sellitti finished with eight points and 10 team-high rebounds.
St. John 42, Madonna 31
ST. JOHN CENTRAL: Russell 5, 2-4 12; Coppa 2, 0-0 5; Rose 3, 5-10 11; Sliva 1, 0-0 2; Alvey 3, 0-0 6; Roberts 0, 0-0 0; Knox 0, 0-0 0; Froehlich 3, 0-1 6; Lemasters 0, 0-0 0. Totals, 17-50, 7-15.
MADONNA: Dowiak 0, 0-2 0; Holt 1, 2-4 4; Antinone 0, 0-0 0; Rosso 2, 0-2 5; Sellitti 2, 4-4 8; Platek 2, 0-4 4; Davis 0, 0-0 0; Bragg 2, 5-6 9; Lammers 0, 1-2 1. Totals, 9-50, 12-24.
Three-point goals: St. John Central (1): Coppa, 1. Madonna (1): Rosso, 1.