WINTERSVILLE-When those around them began preparing for defeat, Indian Creek's hard-working Redskins didn't waver.
Outscored 12-2 to start the fourth quarter, Joe Dunlevy's club hung tough, stuck with it and earned a 43-40 Buckeye 8 victory against visiting St. Clairsville on Tuesday night.
Riley Carlton's 3-pointer early in the final quarter gave the Red Devils a 26-24 advantage (their first lead since the second quarter). Dan Monteroso's spinning jumper in the lane stretched the lead to seven (33-26) and Kim Clifford's squad appeared headed for a road victory.
Creek's Shane Winland had a different idea. He scored from the paint, knocked down a pair of free throws and put the Redskins ahead to stay when he got a put back off a Joe Bowers miss. Just for good measure, he got a steal on the next St. Clairsville possession. Alex Young made the visitors pay for that turnover when he nailed both ends of a 1-and-1.
Winland finished Creek's scoring by swishing two more from the stripe.
"I'm really, really proud of them," Dunlevy said about his 4-0 Redskins. "First of all for the way they played defense. I think a lot of people thought the game was over in the fourth quarter, but our kids didn't. Some kids made plays and we were able to beat an awful good team."
Bowers had a couple of those plays. Like Winland, he had a steal on the defensive end before sinking two free throws. Frank Kamarec came through with another, nailing a three during the late Creek charge.
"Shane did a great job for us," Dunlevy continued. "He had a good season for us in football, playing middle linebacker. I love having linebackers in basketball because they anticipate so well and get to places they are supposed to be. He did a nice job, as they all did."
Winland finished with 16 points to pace the winners. He and Justin Cummings collected five rebounds each. Dylan Hibbits had eight and Bowers 7.
St. Clairsville led 10-6 after one but Creek rallied to take a 17-14 halftime lead. The advantage might have been greater had the Redskins not gone 1-for- 9 from the line during the opening pair of quarters.
They did recover nicely, hitting 10 of 15 in the second half and 8 of 11 in the final eight minutes.
"Our kids work like crazy on free throws," Dunlevy noted. "I get mad about misses but sometimes, you just have to be quiet and realize they are going to make them. If they weren't working so hard at it, you could get upset, but they are."
Monteroso, who connected for the 1,000th point of his career in St. Clairsville's season-opening 81-39 victory against Union Local, took game scoring honors with 18. Adam Jeffries contributed 13.
"We had some turnovers in there and we didn't play real smart on offense," Clifford said about his team's fourth-quarter performance. "The things that got us the lead, we did the opposite. We didn't move the ball real well, that's basically it."
Creek's defensive effort forced 20 St. Clairsville turnovers and the Red Devils finished the night 16 of 41 from the floor.
"We did a lot of things defensively that require you to have smart kids," Dunlevy said. "Our kids are very intelligent so that allows us to do some things that we don't normally do. Their intelligence really helps us on the defensive end."
As Clifford prepares his young team to move forward (the Devils have no seniors), he sees the loss as a wake-up call of sorts.
"I told them after the game that even at an older age I am still very competitive," he noted. "This might have been a wake-up call for us regarding what we have to do against a good, veteran team that is going to challenge us."
After giving what Dunlevy described as "the ultimate team effort," Creek will look to stay perfect when it visits Weir on Friday.
"I'm really surprised at how well we are playing with losing two seniors," he added. "Some younger guys have had to step up and are doing a nice job. We are playing hard and practicing hard. I can't ask for anything more than that."