ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Overall, the Bridgeport and St. Clairsville girls' basketball teams are pretty evenly matched.
However, the Bulldogs had the ultimate X-factor when they trekked to John Jenkins Court on Wednesday evening.
Sterling sophomore Nicole Smolenak displayed the entire arsenal and proved to be too much for the Red Devils, sparking the Bulldogs to a hard-earned 34-27 victory.
Smolenak was held to one field goal in the opening quarter, but proceeded to score 20 during the next three, including 13 in the second half.
"Every team we play has a go-to-shooter and we have to know where they are on the floor," St. C coach Alicia Freeman said.
The Bulldogs owned a 25-23 edge after three quarters and St. Clairsville's Brigee Mick knotted the game on the first possession of the fourth quarter.
Bridgeport (5-3) had the answer as Kaitlyn Benda scored to put her team back on top for what proved to be for good.
"We played pretty smart, but give St. Clairsville (2-7) credit because they hung in there," Bridgeport coach Rob Zitzelsberger said. "I thought we played hard to the end."
Smolenak scored the next six points, including the clincher with a little more than minute to go. After Zitzelsberger ordered his players off the foul line, St. C. had just two on the line for the front end of a bonus situation.
Smolenak's foul shot was off the mark, but she out-hustled the Red Devils' duo for the ball and recorded a layup to make it a 33-25 reading.
"That sealed the game," Zitzelsberger said. "I've never seen anything like that."
St. Clairsville found the sledding extremely tough on the offensive end, meshing 12 of 47 from the floor.
"The unfortunate thing is we work a lot, in practice, on shooting," Freeman said. "We know that's not one of our strengths right now. We're progressing, but it's been the same things all season. Turnovers and our lack of scoring are hurting us. We're not an offensive team, but our defense didn't step up. We think we have shooters, but they are really lacking confidence right now."
Smolenak was the only player in the game to score in double figures. Benda finished with five points in top support.
St. C., meanwhile, was led by Carli Zavatsky, who scored eight points and had seven rebounds. Carlee Gillespie and Mick each had six.