MCMECHEN - Weir High's inside-outside duo of Mike Drizake and Harley Mills combined for 43 points Friday night in assuring Red Riders' coach Mike Granato of a happy homecoming at Bishop Donahue High School.
Drizake poured in 23 points, including 13 during the opening quarter, while the 6-foot-7 Mills recorded a double-double with 20 points and 12 rebounds as Weir (6-13) came away with a hard-earned 72-67 victory on the Bishops' home court.
''This is a special place for me and for this community," said Granato, who cut his coaching teeth during the 12 years he was on the Bishop Donahue faculty where he was baseball coach for nine years, girls' basketball coach and athletics director for three years and was an assistant coach on the boys' hoop squad under Tom Tribett for 12 seasons.
Tribett was on hand for last night's return visit by his long-time coaching sidekick and they were able to reminisce about some memorable moments they enjoyed in the past, including the 1985 season when they guided the Bishops to a West Virginia Class A state championship.
''I hope the powers to be in the Diocese understand what these people have done to keep this school open," Granato added, while expressing his sentiments about the Bishops' future.
Friday night's game was one both Granato and current Bishop Donahue coach/school principal Tom Wise didn't particularly want to play. However, when the matchups came out for the consolation bracket of the OVAC boys' tournament, the single-A Bishops found themselves scheduled to face a couple of Conference 3A schools, Martins Ferry and Weir High.
''But you saw two teams that really battled hard in what was a tournament atmosphere," Granato said. " Hopefully, it was a type of game that helps get both teams ready for our upcoming sectionals."
''The only thing I can make as a positive out of these two losses (Ferry and Weir) is that it does help prepare us for our tournament. Things won't get any better next week when the No. 1 team in Class A (St. Marys) comes in here next Tuesday for our last home game of the regular season," Wise pointed out.
The battle against the Red Riders saw Bishop Donahue playing up hill most of the way. Drizake's hot start saw him match the Bishops team total in the first quarter as Weir raced out to a 24-13 lead.
After Weir's 16-6 run to close out the opening period, Donahue's D.T. Meeker scored six straight points to get the Bishops back in the hunt. Meeker, with 19 points overall, began the second quarter with a stickback and he then scored twice on driving layups in transition. Bryce Jones hit 1 of 2 at the foul line, cutting the deficit to 24-20 before Weir got back on the scoreboard as Drizake beat the Donahue defense with a layin at the other end.
Meeker tossed in 12 of his points in the second quarter but a couple of late 3-pointers by Evan Woodland and Dylan Cassiadoro helped the Red Riders recover to lead 37-31 at the half.
Austin Ghaphery's 3-pointer and two Garrett Yurisko free throws sparked Bishop Donahue's 9-2 spurt opening the third quarter to put the green and gold on top 40-39. The Bishops had a chance to extend the lead but Mills blocked two shot attempts during the hosts next three possessions, enabling the Red Riders to ease back in front 48-44 entering the final 8 minutes.
After scoring just four points in the first half, Mills ruled the inside during most of the last two quarters, hitting three buckets in the third quarter and finishing the game with 10 more points down the stretch, including cashing 4 of 5 critical attempts from the foul line.
Yurisko, the dynamo Bishops guard, did all he could do to try and rally his teammates late when he scored 10 of his 12 points, twice draining 3-pointers and coming through with several clutch steals.
''We had our opportunities," Wise said. ''During one burst of about 30 seconds, Yurisko made some tremendous plays on both ends of the court, but we couldn't come all the way back."
Donahue had once chance to tie the score again but Lavonte Hampton, who played well late in the game, was able to connect on just 1 of 2 foul shots, leaving the Bishops down by 57-56 with 2:30 remaining.
Mills then added a conventional three-point point play, followed by a Drizake drive to the hoop for a 62-56 advantage. Donahue came than four points at 66:62 with less than a minute left on a stickback goal from Chad Riedel, who finished with 12 points. One free throw each from Mills and Tony Gurerra, followed by a pair from Drizake, put the game out of reach.
''Mills had a great game," praised Granato. ''When we do our job and really work on getting him the ball in the low post, everybody knows what he can do. Our guards did a great job of recognizing when he is open. When Harley is balanced and composed, he is a heck of a center."
Disappointment reigned in the locker room of the Bishops, who have been struggling in recent weeks.
''We 're just not getting consistent play from everybody," Wise said. "Our kids are making critical mental mistakes at horrible times.
''The kids are pressing three-and-a-half quarters of every game and working hard. We are just not making the plays we need to make."