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Fourth quarter leads Madonna past Weir

BATTLING — Madonna’s Anna Backel dribbles after grabbing a rebound in front of Weir High’s Leah Maley during Monday’s game. Also shown are Weir High’s Isabella Aperfine and Madonna’s Jazzy Melnyk. - Andrew Grimm

WEIRTON — Any time a basketball team can take over a close game in the fourth quarter it is a time to celebrate. That’s what the Madonna girls did Monday night in the first of its two rivalry games with Weir High, coming out on top 35-29.

Rodney Boniti’s girls went into the fourth quarter deadlocked with the Red Riders at 20. They scored the first seven points of the final stanza and when Weir High clawed its way back to within one point with 59 seconds left in the game, they made a field goal and three of four foul shots in the final 41 seconds for the win inside the Carl Hamill Fieldhouse.

The game was close throughout, so when the Blue Dons scored those first seven to open the fourth the 27-20 lead was the biggest margin of the contest.

“Part of it was the atmosphere here at Weir High,” said Boniti, whose club advanced to 2-0. “Their crowd was really into it. This was our first huge intercity test of the season and the girls were a little hyped so that plays into why we missed some good looks at the basket, especially in the first half.”

The game was the fourth straight close game of the season for Weir High. Red Rider coach Rick Stead was a bit disappointed in the way his team handled Madonna’s defense and the bigger girls inside.

“If you can’t put the ball through the hoop, you can’t win a basketball game,” Stead said. “And, defensively, I don’t think we played as well as we played in the three games last week. This is a team I thought we could match up with. Even though Madonna is a bit bigger than last year, we thought we would do better on the outside.

“But, we were only 7 of 16 shooting free throws and we missed a bunch of easy shots and layups. We wanted to run and beat them down the floor as much as we could, but they did a good job of slowing us down. We didn’t do what we wanted to do which was to get to the rim and get Kennedy (Martin) in foul trouble.”

Martin, The 6-foot-0 Blue Don senior center led all scorers with 15 points and she hauled in eight rebounds with three blocked shots. Jazzy Melnyk backed her with 10 points.

Stead’s club went down to the wire with North Marion, the No. 2 ranked team in Class AA, went into overtime before losing by a point to East Fairmont, another ranked West Virginia team, and beat a very good Big Red team, all last week.

“We just didn’t execute as well as we did last week,” he said. “That’s what happens when you don’t make your free throws. They made their free throws down the stretch. Being behind, we were forced to foul them. They made the shots and we couldn’t get ours when we had the chances. I thought we did a good job last week on the boards against teams that were as big or bigger, but we didn’t do a good job tonight of boxing our or getting to loose balls.”

Weir High was executing in the first quarter and jumped out to a 12-9 first quarter lead, but Madonna slowed the game way down in the second quarter with a 2-3 zone defense.

Only six points were scored in that period and the Blue Dons got four of them to go to the intermission behind by one at 14-13.

The Red Riders hit a dry spell after senior Olivia Bernola made a 12-foot jumper from the right wing with 3:32 left in the first half. It wasn’t until the clock read 2:22 in the third quarter before they scored again.

Even so, the Blue Dons were unable to pull very far away. Weir High knotted the score at 20-20 on senior Sophia Mikula’s rebound of her own missed shot and put back as the third period ended. Mikula was the only Red Rider in double figures scoring 14 points. She had two 3-pointers in the game.

One of the treys came with 4:18 left and ignited a 9-3 Weir High run. When junior Leah Maley drained two free throws with 59 seconds left in the game, Weir High had pulled within one at 30-29, but it would be the last time Weir High would score.

Madonna junior Alaina Moore got a rebound and put back and fellow junior, Jazzy Melnyk made three of four foul shots in the final 15 seconds of the game for the final margin.

“We knew Weir High had just come off of an emotional game with the No. 2 Class AA team in the state, North Marion, and lost by only nine points,” Boniti said. “So we knew they were battle tested and ready to go. Emotions were running high. One thing we always know is that a Rick Stead team will keep coming at you.

“That’s two teams we’ve played that know how to put pressure on you, but we found some open looks in the second half. We got some isolation that we wanted and the girls finished enough buckets to pull out a win.”

GAME NOTES

The Lady Riders play another rivalry game at home Wednesday night when they host Oak Glen. The Lady Dons continue on the road Thursday night with a visit to Valley.

Madonna 35, Weir High 29

Madonna 9-4-7-15 — 35

Weir High 12-2-6-9 — 29

MADONNA (2-0): Martin 6 3-5 15; Costello 0 1-2 1; Melnyk 3 4-10 10; Moore 1 0-2 2; Backel 2 0-0 4; Alatis 1 0-0 3. TOTALS: 13 8-19 35. 3-POINT GOALS: Alatis; REBOUNDS: 28 (Martin 8, Moore 8); TURNOVERS: 7.

WEIR HIGH (1-3): Mikula 6 0-0 14; Bernola 1 0-0 2; I. Aperfine 2 2-3 6; S. Aperfine 0 0-0 0; Hoover 0 0-0 0; Maley 0 5-6 5; Nutter 1 0-7 2. TOTALS: 10 7-16 29.

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