Big Red slips by Central in OT

STEUBENVILLE – As Sean Tucker correctly noted, Catholic Central athletic director Steve Daley could have “charged double at the door” for Friday’s clash with Big Red inside the jam-packed Mickey Barber Gymnasium.

Round two of the annual city championship series was a classic. There were lead changes, outstanding individual efforts, extremely vocal cheering sections, scoring runs, key defensive stops and an extra four minutes of action.

In the end, there also was a pull-up three by Big Red’s Periogn West.

Seconds after Matt Martello drained a triple of his own to put Central ahead by one, the senior guard connected from behind the arc to give Big Red a thrilling 61-59 overtime victory and the 2012-13 city title.

“Once someone scores against us late in the game, we don’t want to call a timeout,” Big Red’s Mike Haney said. “Instead, we tell our kids to get it up the court quickly and try to penetrate or make something happen. He (West) pulled up on an open three and nailed it.”

The victory moves Haney’s charges to 10-3. Central now stands at 11-4.

“You couldn’t ask for a better atmosphere,” Tucker commented. “This was a great game. We knew after playing them at their place (a 77-54 Big Red triumph) that we’d come back and play our style. We did a great job.

“I told our kids if we continue to play the way we did tonight, nobody is going beat us and we are going to go far. The kids are a little heartbroken and I’m heartbroken for them. Someone has to lose, unfortunately, and tonight we were on the short end.”

After West connected, Central still had an opportunity to either force a second overtime or earn a buzzer-beating win. The Big Red defense, however, rose to the occasion and forced a bad shot.

“We had a play designed at the end,” Tucker pointed out. “They jammed us and kept us too far away from the basket to get a good shot off.”

Big Red went ahead 53-51 late in regulation play after Mylik Young converted a steal into a layup.

Two clutch free throws by Central’s Ryan Fletcher knotted the score with a little more than a minute left. Haney opted to hold the ball and wait for a final shot.

The visitors ran the clock down to 16 seconds, went to work offensively, but were unable to score.

Big Red’s John Linn and Central’s Michael Barber exchanged free throw makes to start the extra session.

Prior to Linn’s attempt, the winners had not been to the line since the second period. Adam Sterling scored four straight (his only points of the night) to give Haney’s club a 58-54 lead. Brenton Colabella scored for the Crusaders before Martello calmly knocked down his three.

“This was just a great atmosphere tonight,” Haney noted. “There’s nothing better than coming to a packed gym with two vocal cheering sections. It’s how basketball should be played.”

Big Red held an 11-6 advantage (thanks to seven Young points) late in the opening stanza before baskets by Colabella and Fletcher made it 11-10 after eight minutes.

The Crusaders went up 16-13 early in the second on the strength of two Colabella makes and a Fletcher hoop off a nifty Martello pass. Big Red used a 6-0 scoring run (Glenn Purdue, Brandon Herring-Hill and Tajuan Lawson all scoring) to move ahead 19-16. Central would reclaim the upper hand at 25-24 thanks to a Barber floater in the lane. West capped the first half scoring, getting a layup off a steal and it was 26-25 Big Red at the intermission.

West and Colabella each scored seven of their team’s 15 points during the second frame.

Held scoreless in the first half, Zack Herrington, who missed Tuesday’s loss to Wheeling Central thanks to the flu, went bonkers in the third. He scored eight, nailing all four of his field goal attempts, allowing the Crusaders to pocket a 40-38 lead. Chris Smith kept Big Red close, accounting for eight of the 12 markers.

“Our kids played so hard,” Tucker said. “We hit our free throws (Central was 11 of 14 from the line), made our layups and did the things we were supposed to do. We just fell short by one possession.”

West took game scoring honors with 18 (as a team Big Red took 73 shots but made just 27). Young had 13 before fouling out. Smith contributed 12 and hauled down eight of his team’s 35 rebounds.

“Chris came alive offensively in the third quarter and we certainly needed that,” Haney noted. “Sterling did a great job also. He got a couple of big hoops in overtime and really did a great job of applying defensive pressure at the end.

“We didn’t shoot it very well (Big Red was just 3-of-25 from behind the arc) but they gutted it out. They kept playing and working hard the whole time. I’m definitely proud of our effort tonight.”

As a team, Big Red recorded 17 steals (Young, Smith, Lawson, Linn and Sterling all getting three each).

Colabella paced the Crusaders with 15 and Fletcher (who gave Central a huge fourth quarter boost by recording seven points) added 13. Herrington finished with 10 and Barber nine. Tucker’s cagers were 23 for 39 from the floor. Barber and Colabella both were credited with six rebounds (the Crusaders ended with 25). Martello swatted away three Big Red shots.

“This was an all-out total team game,” Tucker said. “I couldn’t be more proud of every kid. Given all the illnesses we’ve dealt with the last two days of practice, everyone stepped up. We were prepared for this game.

“The kids left it out on the floor. We still have a few kids recovering but I’m not blaming it on that. Big Red played an outstanding and we played a fantastic game. This is the best Big Red team I’ve ever had to go against, the best I’ve seen in a long time.”

Big Red will be back in action Tuesday when Wheeling Park visits The Crimson Center. Central is off until it hosts Strasburg next Saturday.

“What it came down to was second chance shots,” Tucker added. “We almost played a complete game. It wasn’t turnovers that hurt us (Central was charged with 22), it wasn’t bad shot selection, it was rotation on defense.

“We allowed them to penetrate our zone and get some points. When we regrouped and stopped that penetration, we didn’t get those backside box-outs. That cost us points. If we get one, the game is over. If we take away one penetration, the game is over.”