Martin’s free throw lifts Madonna past Bulldogs

WEIRTON – Madonna’s 6-foot-11 big man, Josh Martin, made a foul shot with 6.1 seconds showing on the clock Saturday night for a thrilling come-from-behind win against Bridgeport, 57-56 in the Dube Dome.

The winning free throw capped off a comeback from a 12-point deficit in the third quarter and not only did Martin make the winning basket he recorded his second straight double-double with a team-high 13 points and 10 rebounds, six of which were offensive boards.

“Josh has been struggling, but he keeps working hard and tonight some of that hard work paid off,” said Blue Don coach George Vargo, whose team was winning it’s second game in as many nights increasing the season record to 4-7. “I’m really happy for him because he got two buckets in the paint going down the stretch in addition to the free throw.”

Bridgeport, like Madonna playing a games on back-to-back nights, was coming off a win at Toronto Friday night and, after a nip-and-tuck first half, seemed to be cruising with a 12-point lead at 45-33 with 1:40 left to go in the third quarter.

For the Bulldogs, losing their 11th of 14 starts, everything seemed to come apart in the fourth quarter. After making 4-of-4 freebies in the first three quarters of play, the Bulldogs could scratch out just 3-of-14 from the foul line in the fourth quarter.

“We missed seven straight foul shots to start the fourth quarter and a couple of them were in the one-plus-one bonus situation,” said Don Cash, who normally plays three seniors and five sophomores. “Madonna beat us with the hustle plays for loose balls and offensive rebounds. When you give a team like that second possessions, they’re going to make you pay.

“It’s the little things that make the biggest difference in tight games like this. Our effort gets better and better and we’ve been in position to win several games in the second half of the season, but we haven’t done it because we’re not doing the little things to win.”

In addition to missing at the foul line in the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs had difficulties from the field, too. For example, after Martin made what turned out to be the winning foul shot with 6.1 seconds left, the Bulldogs quickly got the ball down the floor into the hands of Parker Dyson, whose uncontested layup missed the mark as time ran out.

Madonna sophomore, Caleb Baier found nothing but net from deep in the right corner for the final score of the third quarter leaving Bridgeport with a 45-36 lead going into the final frame.

Baier’s bomb ignited an 11-0 run to open the fourth quarter that got the Blue Dons within 45-44.

Finally, Bridgeport sophomore Q.J. Williams, who led all scorers with 19 points, made the second of two free throws to get his Bulldogs on the board after a drought of 3:14.

When Bulldog senior Dallas Fields stole the ball and drove for an uncontested layup at the 2:25 mark, Madonna was down 53-47.

That’s when Martin went to work. He pulled in an offensive rebound and put the ball up for two and after Williams drove the lane for another close in goal, Martin did it again. That cut the Bridgeport margin to 55-51.

Madonna’s George Stakias, a 6-foot sophomore, got his only goal of the game on a short jumper in the lane to cut the lead to 55-53.

A skirmish at the 40-second mark resulted in a technical foul against a Bridgeport player so freshman Nick Mazur, Madonna’s best foul shooter, went to the line, but missed both freebies.

There was a foul against a Madonna player during that same play, so Bridgeport senior, Jon Kreiter went to the line in the bonus situation and also missed both free throws.

Madonna had the out of bounds possession at midcourt because of the technical foul and sophomore point guard, Levi Shreve nailed one from behind the arc, his third three of the game, to give the Blue Dons their first lead of the game at 56-55 with 19 seconds left.

Bridgeport senior Aaron Roth went to the foul line after being fouled attempting to shoot and made the second of two to knot the score at 56-56 with 15 seconds remaining.

Martin was fouled in the act of shooting on the next possession. He missed his first free throw attempt, but nailed the second for the win.

“This is the type of win that every team needs when they’re struggling like we are,” Vargo explained. “We had the win last night against Weir, our city rival, and now a win like this really means a lot to our young kids. Hopefully, they are beginning to realize what it takes to win games.”

Junior Nate Guio scored 11 points for the Blue Dons and Shreve added nine.