STEUBENVILLE - One of the best comebacks in the history of the annual city championship series (Big Red and Catholic Central now have met 155 times on the hardwood) came up just a little short Friday.
Big Red owned a 20-point third quarter lead before holding on for dear life to escape with a 63-57 victory inside a jam-packed Mickey Barber Gymnasium.
Friday's win, coupled with a 66-54 victory earlier in the season, gives Mike Haney's club the 2013-2014 city championship.
Courtesy Newbrough Photo
CITY CHAMPS — Steubenville Big Red’s Brandon Herring-Hill goes up for two between Steubenville Catholic Central’s Mike Manfresca (left) and Michael Barker during Friday’s 63-57 victory by Big Red to sweep the Crusaders and claim the city championship.
"As long as we are playing this series, it's always a goal to win the city championship," Haney said. "We're happy with that, but we have to play a little better. Give credit to their coaches and their defense, they really got after us.
"We told our guys at halftime that Central was going to keep fighting. Nobody is going to quit in this game, either team, whoever is down. We knew that was going to happen."
Big Red, now 9-2, never trailed after seniors Adam Sterling and Brandon Herring-Hill scored the game's first four points. Haney's cagers were up 18-10 after one and 35-20 at the break. In the first half, Big Red nailed 13 of 22 field goal attempts with seven hoops coming from behind the arc.
Big Red 63, Catholic Central 57
Big Red 18 17 18 10 - 63
Central 10 10 19 18 - 57
BIG RED (9-2): Wallace Jones 0 0-0 0; Herring-Hill 4 2-3 10; Herrington 1 0-0 3; Reeves 4 0-3 8; Bougard 2 1-1 7; Sterling 7 4-6 22; D. Smith 1 2-2 4; C. Smith 3 2-5 9. TOTALS: 22 11-21 63. 3-pointers: Sterling 4; Bougard 2; Herrington; C. Smith; Rebounds 32 (Sterling 10; D. Smith 8; Reeves 8); Turnovers 20.
CENTRAL (9-5): M. Barber 1 2-2 5; Colabella 2 1-2 5; T. Barber 3 0-1 6; Manfresca 2 0-0 4; Fletcher 6 4-8 16; Martello 4 3-3 13; Dombrowski 3 2-3 8. TOTALS: 21 12-19 57. 3-pointers: Martello 2; M. Barber; Rebounds 30 (Dombrowski 10, Colabella 7, Fletcher 7); Turnovers 19.
Sterling's conventional three-point play late in the third put Big Red up 53-33. The Crusaders, now 9-5, finished the stanza by scoring six straight (Ryan Fletcher had four of the six and John Paul Dombrowski added a deuce).
Matt Martello opened the fourth with a triple and Michael Barber followed seconds later to make it 55-45. Martello struck again from downtown range and it was 58-51 the Red with 4:15 to play. Dombrowski's conventional three point play (he got his two off a nifty M. Barber assist) along with his bucket following an offensive rebound pulled the hosts to within four (60-56) with 2:10 left to play.
Big Red put the victory away with on free throw makes by Sterling and Chris Smith. The winners attempted 14 freebies during the final eight minutes, making just six. For the night, Big Red was 11 of 21 from the line.
"They (Central) played a great second half," Haney stated. "We came out, turned the ball over (Big Red finished with 20 turnovers) and we don't make our foul shots. Then we take a couple of bad shots and they start getting hot with the threes. Those threes really made our lead go down a lot faster."
Central, which played most of the game with six-man rotation after Michael Manfresca went out with an injury, had several chances to put closer following Big Red free throw makes but the Crusaders were unable to convert.
"Tonight came down to heart and hustle and our kids are well aware of that," Central's Sean Tucker said. "You can't play two quarters of basketball or one quarter and you can't be nonchalant out there. We should be playing 32 minutes of basketball at this point in the season and we didn't have that tonight
"It (the late rally) means nothing when you don't play with heart in the first half. You can do whatever you want as a coach to get your team prepared but they have to play the game and they have to understand the importance. If they don't, you can't do it for them."
Sterling took game scoring honors with 22. He also had 10 rebounds and six steals. Herring-Hill, who sat out most of the second quarter with foul problems, finished with 10. C. Smith added nine points and dished out six assists. Charles Reeves came off Haney's bench to contribute eight while Khaliq Bougard had seven.
"We had guys come off the bench and give some great minutes in the first half," Haney commented. "We actually were able to increase our lead with Herring-Hill on the bench in the second quarter.
"We always tell our guys you never know when your time is coming. We had some guys really step up and play well. Reeves and Bougard both did a great job."
Fletcher paced the Crusaders with 16, 11 coming in the second half. Martello added 13, scoring 10 following the intermission. Central outscored Big Red 37-28 during the final two quarters.
Dombrowski added eight and grabbed 10 rebounds.
"It's frustrating when you try to tell them what they need to do and they don't do it," Tucker said. "It gets more frustrating when they do whatever they want. Good teams like Big Red are going to beat you when that happens. And from here on out, we play good teams.
"We have to play like we know how to play, like we did Tuesday night (Central knocked off Wheeling Central earlier in the week). We had no chance to win tonight with the way we played in the first half, nor did we deserve to win."
Both teams return to action today. Big Red hosts Minerva (the junior varsity squads tip at 3 p.m.) while the Crusaders travel to Conotton Valley.