ST. CLAIRSVILLE – The third time wasn’t the charm for the Steubenville Big Red boys basketball team against St. Clairsville.
Red Devils senior Dan Monteroso scored a game-high 45 points, including a 16-for-19 performance from the free throw line, as his squad defeated Big Red, 76-59, Saturday inside the Health and Physical Education Building at Ohio University-Eastern for the Division II sectional title.
“That was a big key,” said Steubenville coach Mike Haney. “He was the key. We were trying to get after him. Monteroso is a very, very good basketball player. He hit some outside shots and then drove to the bucket and got to the line. He has nice body control.”
The Eastern District Player of the Year worked for his career-high 45. Big Red’s defense kept coming at him, but the Purdue-bound football player slithered his way through Steubenville’s defense to score a lot of points in the paint.
“The kids took it upon themselves to win,” said St. Clairsville coach Kim Clifford. “We did hit some big threes today, but to score 76 points and not make that many threes was huge for us.”
Big Red did a wonderful job all game of getting to the basket.
“We talked about the fact that we had to make our lay-ups,” said Haney. “It happened in the OVAC game (a 62-58 St. Clairsville win over Big Red) when we missed some open lay-ups, too.
“We missed some easy shots early on that could have really helped. We got to the rim well, but just didn’t finish.
“We also talked about that when we do go to the bucket and Monteroso tries to block it, don’t change your shot because you can avoid the contact and miss the lay-up, too. But, we changed our shots when Monteroso went up to block them.
“I thought we did a great job of getting to the bucket, we just didn’t finish them all. I thought in the third quarter we settled a little too much for too many threes, trying to get the quick points. We talked about it and said that we didn’t want to settle for the threes, but we wanted to go hard to the bucket.”
Going to the basket was what got Big Red back into the game.
“We did not do a good job of keeping them from driving down the lane,” said Clifford.
A conventional three-point play from Mylik Young cut the Red Devils’ lead to 51-47 with six minutes left in the game after the home team held a 47-40 lead after 24 minutes.
“We were trying to go hard to the bucket, make a shot and get fouled,” said Haney. “We wanted to keep attacking their defense. We focused on that the last couple days of practice.”
After missing four in a row from the line, the Red Devils canned six straight (four by Monteroso and two by Jarrid Marhefka) and the lead ballooned to 10. Seconds later, a techincal was called and Monteroso netted two more. Dylan Cmapbell followed with one of his two fourth-quarter treys and it was 62-47.
The Red Devils finished 24 for 31 from the charity stripe. Big Red was 15 for 21.
“I wish they would just let us play,” said Haney.
St. Clairsville found itself down 16-12 midway through the second period. It took the lead for good via a 16-4 run to close the half, including a 10-0 spurt at one juncture. Monteroso fueled the run with 13 of those 16 points.
“I think the time off was huge for us. We looked a little fresher today,” said Clifford.
“I thought the kids understood that Steubenville is going to come at us the entrie game and we couldn’t let up. I think the difference was that we had fresher legs, but, moreso, understanding who we were playing against and that they’re never going to quit.”
Steubenville placed a trio of seniors in double figures, topped by Tajuan Lawson’s 17 pointss. Young delivered 14 while point guard Periogn West contributed 12 points.
“The kids are upset because they lost a game and their season is over. The only think I’m mad about is we’re not going to have practice on Monday. This group came out every game this year and played our style, getting up and down the court. They did at practice and I thanked them in there for their effort all year at practice and in games.
“It all comes down to senior leadership and we had great senior leadership.
“These young guys now have to take over and make it their team.”