WEIRTON - An outmanned St. John Central boys basketball team stayed with Madonna in the first half, but the Blue Dons put the game away with a 27-point third quarter to come away with a season-opening 80-44 victory Wednesday night in the Dube Dome.
The Fighting Irish were behind by 35-28 at the intermission because freshman point guard Guy Pagano got hot, scoring 13 points including three from beyond the arc.
"St. John played a good first half," said veteran Blue Don coach George Vargo, who was pleased with his team's opener. "Those kids hustled and really were quicker than us in the first half.
HEADS UP — Madonna’s Will Bowser attempts to block a shot by Bellaire St. John point guard Guy Pagano on Wednesday night.
-- Matthew Peaslee
READY TO PASS -- Madonna guard Ross Comis looks to pass around Malik Ford of Bellaire St. John. Comis led the Blue Dons to their first win of the year in the season opener.
-- Matthew Peaslee
"That little freshman (Pagano) was hurting us. He kept them in the game until we decided to go box-and-one with (Will) Bowser on him. That defense was really the story because St. John couldn't figure out how to break the box-and-one. Then Bowser is such a good defensive player on anybody. The box-and-one changed the whole complexion of the game."
Irish second-year coach, Kevin Lahna, was pleased with his team's first half.
"The first half is what we've been trying to get our players to buy into for the summer and really the whole two years I've been here," he said. "We don't have many shooters. We have a freshman point guard who's going to be pretty good.
"Coach Vargo threw that box-and-one on us and we didn't adjust. I don't know whether we expended too much energy in the first half and came out flat, but that third quarter was a big deal.
"We knew our backs were against the wall, but at least we came out and fought that first half. That's what we're trying to get and it's getting better. It might have ended up 80-44, but to me it was a lot closer than that."
Seniors Ross Comis and Bowser, who were the featured passing combination for Madonna's state champion football team, led the way for the Blue Dons with 22 and 17 points, respectively.
"It was nice to see Comis, who is our leader, start the season off with 22 points," said Vargo. "And then Bowser pitched in with 17. They are athletes. They've been around for a long time and have played a lot of basketball for us.
"I just thought the whole team played well. I don't think anybody played great, but they all played well."
The Blue Dons were without starting forward, Nate Guio, who is nursing a football injury, but is expected to be ready to play Friday when the Blue Dons travel to Steubenville Catholic Central.
All 12 players who dressed got into the scoring column.
Pagano, who had 13 first half points, finished with 15 to lead the Irish. Garrett Holubek was right behind with 11.
St. John hosts Jefferson Christian in a varsity game at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
Madonna 80, Bellaire St. John 44
St. John 9 19 7 9 - 44
Madonna 16 19 27 18 - 80
ST. JOHN (0-3): Murray 0 1-2 1, Holubek 4 1-2 11, Ford 1 2-4 5, Pagano 5 2-2 15, Clark 4 0-2 8, Bossell 2 0-0 4. TOTALS: 16 6-12 44. 3-pointers: Pagano, 3, Holubek, 2, Ford; Rebounds: 15 (Clark, 6); Turnovers: 17.
MADONNA (1-0): Biondillo 2 0-0 4, Comis 9 1-2 22, Antinone 1 0-1 2, J. Ewusiak 2 0-0 5, T. Ewusiak 2 2-2 6, Retton 2 1-2 5, Bowser 6 4-4 17, Lyons 1 0-0 2, Higgins 2 2-2 7, Silvestri 2 0-0 4, Stakias 2 0-0 4, Martin 1 0-0 2. TOTALS: 32 10-13 80. 3-pointers: Comis, 3, J. Ewusiak, Bowser, Higgins; Rebounds: 27 (T. Ewusiak, 7; Turnovers: 11.