WEIRTON - Steubenville Big Red turned up the defensive heat in the second half and took advantage of an injury to a key Weir High player to turn a 33-23 halftime deficit into a 49-39 victory Tuesday night at the Carl Hamill Fieldhouse.
In notching its fifth victory in seven games, Big Red held the Red Riders to just six second-half points.
In addition to the trapping pressure defense, Weir's 6-foot-7 senior center, leading scorer and rebounder, Harley Mills, went down with an ankle sprain with 1:11 left in the second quarter.
Mills had scored on a turnaround baseline jumper, his seventh point, when he came down hard on his left ankle. Weir scored just eight points after that.
"He's going to be alright," Weir coach, Mike Granato said as his team lost its sixth straight, the longest losing streak since his first year at the helm. ''It's a high ankle sprain, which means he'll be out for probably a couple of weeks.''
Without the big center's presence, the Red Riders offense seemed lost and Big Red was able to attack the basket in the second half.
''We talked about it before hand about not losing their man, but they scored 33 points on us in the first half,'' Steubenville coach Mike Haney. ''So at halftime we decided to step up the pressure even more. We told them that's how we were going to win the game was to play great defense. They only got six points in the second half so it worked out well for us.''
Haney said his team seemed to have trouble shooting in the second half missing a lot of layups.
''I thought the first minute of the second half the pace picked up,'' he continued. ''We got the lead down from 10 to four really quick in the first minute and that got us going.''
Already without the services of starting junior forward, Josh Groves, because of illness, Granato was relying on his bench in the second half.
The Red Riders scored just two points in the third when James Carnes made a layup with 2:27 showing on the clock that broke a 19-0 Big Red run, and they went on an 11-4 run from there.
''I'm a positive person,'' Granato said. ''When Harley got injured, we already had Josh Groves on the bench with the flu and unable to play. Right there you are, we had started a freshman (James Carnes) and we had sophomore Andre Sims coming off the bench early. But I thought both did an admirable job for a freshman and sophomore with little experience.
''Obviously, we're not happy with losing and we're never looking for moral victories, but if you're looking for positives to come out of this it is that our young post players did a pretty good job and that can only mean it strengthens our team as we get near the halfway point and head for tournament time.''
Junior Dylan Cassiadoro was the only Red Rider in double figures with 11 points, 10 of them in the first half. Carnes tallied nine points.