Madonna girls edge Catholic Central

DRIVING DOWN — Madonna’s Gabriella Staffileno drives to the hoop past Catholic Central’s Hannah Olszewski, left, and Bella Oliver on Monday. (Joe Catullo)

WEIRTON — The Madonna girls jumped out to an early lead, relinquished it briefly once in the first quarter, then staved off a furious Catholic Central rally in the third period to pocket an impressive 55-51 victory Monday night on the JoAnna Bernabei Court inside the Bill Barrett Gymnasium.

The Blue Dons got a double-double from junior center Kennedy Martin (13 points, 16 rebounds), who had a breakout game with career highs in both categories. Along with her huge game, the Blue Dons had contributions from six other players, and they were accurate from the charity stripe, making 12 of 17.

“This was a big win for our program,” said second-year coach Rodney Boniti, whose club now is 2-1. “We went to Parkersburg Catholic last weekend and took one on the chin. We told the girls on the way home that it is fortunate we were playing on Monday because it means everything. It was a rebound game, and we were going to find out what they are made of.

“We told them they were playing another tough OVAC 3A team that has a great program, and we would find out if you can rebound quickly and get back on the winning track or if you are going to pack it in. I think the girls came into a great atmosphere tonight and played four periods.”

After being down by eight points at the half and 13 early in the third period, Jess Looman’s club fought back and cut the Blue Don lead to 42-38 going into the final stanza.

“A couple of more made shots, a couple more made free throws and this game would have been ours,” Looman said. “It hurts because we prepared hard. We’re a small team with only six varsity players, so we had to work players in and out and having our big foul out — that was big for us.”

She was referring to junior center Hannah Olszewski, who scored six points and pulled down eight rebounds. She was called for her fifth foul with 3:41 left in the game and the Crusaders already down by six points.

“We knew coming in that Madonna was going to be ready for us,” Looman said. “They have been the last few years. We’ve taken some games from them that we probably shouldn’t have, so kudos to those girls, especially those seniors. Riccadonna and Alimario had big games for them.”

Andrea Alimario led the Blue Don scoring with 14 points, while Gia Riccadonna finished with 11, including all of Madonna’s three goals from behind the 3-point line.

Riccadonna got a 2-pointer to start the second half, giving Madonna a 10-point lead at 32-22. Alimario swished a freebie, then Martin, working the boards furiously, grabbed a missed shot and put the ball back down for the Blue Dons’ largest lead of the game, 35-22, at 6:18 in the third period.

Looman’s scrappy charges dug in and refused to let the game get away by going on an 11-0 run. Junior Bella Oliver, who shot a very good eight of 11 from the foul line, had a chance to tie the game with 2:59 left in the third. Uncharacteristically, she missed two free throws.

The Crusaders cut the Madonna lead to two points three times in the fourth quarter, the last time with 2:41 left in the game on a Christine Dombrowski jumper. Central got a defensive stop but committed one of its 18 turnovers on the possession, leaving the Blue Dons with a 51-49 lead. The ball changed hands a couple of more times before Martin got another rebound and a put-back with 29 seconds remaining. Alimario canned two freebies and Dombrowski, who led the Crusaders with 15 points, got a jumper to go down with three seconds on the clock for the final 4-point margin.

“We had to pick up the defense when we got down, and we did,” Looman said. “My girls give me 120 percent all the time. We were able to run the ball, and I think that’s why our comeback happened. We’re at our best when we’re able to run up and down the floor.”

Boniti said the Madonna coaching staff never makes an effort to single anyone out, but he had to compliment Martin on her outstanding play.

“We don’t single any girl out. That’s just not the way we do it,” he said. “We complimented every girl for their effort and what they did right to keep us in that game and keep the tempo and, pretty much, keep the lead from the opening tip.

“But, Kennedy practices with a high motor and high energy. For a girl to go in there and bang the way she banged tonight, I thought she controlled the inside with her blocks (she had five blocked shots) and her rebounds. If she didn’t block the ball, she altered shots. Then, she was going to the floor to get loose balls. Kennedy had a fantastic game today.”

Carly Fayak backed up Dombrowski with 12 points.

Oliver had a double-double for the Crusaders, with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Madonna gets right back into action Thursday at cross-town rival Weir High, while the Crusaders return home to host Toronto Saturday.

GAME NOTES

¯ The Catholic Central reserve team notched a win in an abbreviated two-quarter preliminary, 15-12. Ali Grimm led the Crusaders with seven points, while Ana Backel and Vanessa Alatis shared high point honors for the Blue Dons with five points each.

Madonna 55, Catholic Central 51

CCHS 11-11-16-13 — 51

Madonna 13-17-12-13 — 55

CATHOLIC CENTRAL (3-2): Harold 0 0-4 0, Zatta 2 3-4 8, Fayak 4 0-0 12, Dombrowski 7 1-4 15, Oliver 1 8-11 10, Olszewski 3 0-0 6. TOTALS: 17, 12-23: 51. 3-POINT GOALS: 5 (Fayak 4, Zatta); REBOUNDS: 37 (Oliver 11); TURNOVERS: 18.

MADONNA ( 2-1): Boniti 2 0-0 4, Riccadonna 4 0-0 11, Staffelino 2 0-0 4, Battista 1 0-0 2, Melnyk 2 3-3 7, Martin 5 3-5 13, Alimario 4 6-9 14. TOTALS: 20, 12-17: 55. 3-POINT GOALS: 3 (Riccadonna 3); REBOUNDS: 34 (Martin 16); TURNOVERS: 19.

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