WEIRTON - Visiting Shadyside gave defending West Virginia Class A state champion Weirton Madonna everything it could handle during the first half of Tuesday's matchup at the Dube Dome.
Then the Blue Dons exploded to a 23-9 third-quarter advantage, including a 12-1 run to start the period, and cruised to 65-46 victory.
"I think the kids came out with more energy in the third quarter," Madonna coach George Vargo said. ''I think we took the ball inside a little better, and I think we quit fouling as much.
"We got a few steals and a few transition points in that quarter."
Madonna took a 14-10 advantage after a tightly contested first quarter, led by Clay Rokisky, who scored seven of his game-high 31 points.
The Tigers came out swinging in the second quarter with a 9-0 run that gave them a 19-14 advantage 2 minutes into the stanza.
"I think Shadyside plays good 'D,' " Vargo said. ''Shadyside is a physical team. (Shadyside coach) Ed (Andes) always has his team ready. They came in our house ready to play. You have to give some credit to the opposing team because they were in our face."
Madonna came right back, outscoring the visitors 16-5 the rest of the half to recapture the lead and hold a 30-24 advantage at intermission. Rokisky again led his squad, this time with six points while Josh Egyud scored four of his 14 points in the quarter. Austin Dorris scored seven of his team-high 18 points to lead the Tigers.
The decisive third quarter was the Rokisky show as the Cleveland State recruit poured in 12 points, including two from behind the 3-point arc. Egyud chipped in six more as the Blue Dons built a 20-point lead after the three at 53-33.
''They played four times harder than we did," Andes said. ''They outplayed us. The game was over in the third as far as I'm concerned.''
The Blue Dons built the lead as high as 26 points in the final quarter before emptying their bench, allowing the Tigers to close the final deficit to 19 points.
''I guess it has to do with no seniors and no leadership, but the first half we played hard, and in the second half they played way better than us,'' Andes said. "I'm disappointed in our effort in the second half."
"We have a big target on our back," Vargo said. "Every night somebody is going to come at us. We like to be hunted. We're willing to accept that challenge and I think the kids will accept it even more as the season progresses.
''We remind them every game and every practice that yes, we're No. 1, we're the state champs, we're Notre Dame, and everyone wants to beat us.''