STEUBENVILLE - Basketball games generally are decided by offensive scoring runs. On Monday inside the Crimson Center, St. Clairsville had one more than Big Red.
Juniors Dan Monteroso, Jerrid Marhefka and Riley Carlton combined for 70 points as the streaking Red Devils earned a hard-fought 77-70 victory. The victory was the 14th straight for Kim Clifford's club, which has clinched the top spot for next week's Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Class AAAA tournament.
Big Red (10-5) had the game's first run, scoring six straight to take a 27-22 lead late in the second period. The visitors closed with a 5-0 spurt to even the score at the intermission.
Powered by the play of Marhefka and Monteroso, St. Clairsville (15-2) built a 12-point spread (46-34) to open the third. Four points from Big Red's Chris Sherrell and a hoop by Adam Jeffries made it 48-38. Mike Haney's club then scored nine a row to slice the deficit to just one.
Gio Garcia scored four of the nine, Periogn West swished a 3-pointer and William Houst converted a steal into an easy layup. Unfortunately, the Red Devils closed with a 9-2 spurt. Big Red continued to fight back in the final quarter, pulling to within two (64-62) when Garcia canned both ends of a 1-and-1.
St. Clairsville's final run of the night put the game on ice.
''I was pleased with the effort,'' Clifford said. ''The kids have a sense of urgency and you need that to be a good team. Big Red is always going to be competitive and tough. We knew they would make a run and they did. Our kids made one more and really showed their character.''
Even though the scoreboard said otherwise, Haney was quick to say he ''told the kids it wasn't a loss.''
''For them to go out there after this morning (following the funeral service for Lee West) and give the effort, play the way they did and come back the way they did, it wasn't a loss,'' Haney said. ''They won just by putting on the uniform and playing as hard as they did.''
Monteroso captured game-high scoring honors by pouring in 36. He nailed 17 of 21 from the line, closing by making 10 straight. Thanks to the performance, he surpassed the 1,400 point mark and became the second leading scorer in school history.
Marhefka finished with 18, including six straight to open the third quarter. Carlton added 16.
Freshman Malik Richmond continued to impress for Big Red, netting 20. Garcia contributed 13.