MCMECHEN - Bishop Donahue had West Virginia's No. 1-ranked Class A boys' basketball power St. Marys (20-1) on the ropes but couldn't close the deal during Monday night's up-and-down mutual regular-season finale at the Fr. Raymond Jablinske Memorial Gymnasium.
Coach Tom Wise's upset-minded Bishops opened an eight-point lead twice midway through the third quarter only to see the Blue Devils take charge by exploding on a 23-7 run that extended into the fourth period. Smelling victory at this point, St. Marys shut the door on the hosts' comebacks dreams by hitting its last eight shots from the field and going 12 of 14 from the foul line while pulling away for a 93-80 victory.
Slick and quick, Blue Devils senior guard Derek Renner drew praise from both Wise and St. Marys coach Mark Barnhart after hitting for 27 points, many of his total 12 baskets coming on pull-up jumpers off the dribble.
''He stepped up and hit some really nice pullups when we really needed them," Barnett said.
Added Wise: ''Their point guard is coast-to-coast speed. He's just so fast and has a nice little stutter dribble that makes him hard to defend.''
Renner was a thorn in the Bishops' side the entire game, scoring 13 points in the first half to keep St. Marys in range before leading the charge during the third and fourth quarters with another 14 points.
The Blue Devils sparkplug had plenty of help as backcourt mate K.D. Arnett hit for 22 points and pulled down a team-high nine rebounds. Arnett also went 6-for-6 at the free-throw line down the stretch.
Renner and Arnett were joined in double figures by Derek Bayless and Garrett Wichterman with 13 points each.
Bishop Donahue, which honored eight of its players prior to tipoff on Senior Night, had all five starters in twin digits, led by DT Meeker's 24 points. Wylie Koontz checked in with 13 points, while Austin Ghaphery and Garrett Yurisko added 11 each and Chad Riedel finished with 10.
Barnhart wasn't surprised at all that his Blue Devils struggled against Bishop Donahue. However, he also remained confident that his team would come out on top.
''This is a hard venue but we've also played at Ravenswood, Braxton County, Williamstown and Parkersburg Catholic this month,'' he said. ''At three of those sites we were behind but we battled back and won.''
St. Marys' only loss came last week by one point in the Little Kanawha Conference championship game at Braxton County, the sixth-ranked Class AA power that owns a 16-4 record.
''One of the reasons we played this kind of schedule was because we had a lot of seniors coming back and I thought it would really help us get ready for our sectional tournament," Barnhart said.
Wise had the same thoughts regarding Bishop Donahue, which also has has gone up against several quality opponents down the stretch. Included were a couple of close calls in losses against highly ranked Weirton Madonna and St. Marys.
''We played the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the state and we were up 10 in both games but didn't win,'' Wise said. ''If we would just stop launching stupid shots and keep attacking the rim, we can handle those teams.
''I keep thinking this kind of schedule has to pay off for us at tournament time. It's not like we are playing bad, we're just playing good teams. I think we are good enough to to play with anybody but we just have to be a little more intelligent in those situations.''
The first half got off to a fast-paced start with the lead changing hands no less than 11 times while the score was tied on five occasions. The Bishop came out of the gate quickly with goals by Koontz, Meeker and Ghaphery's runner to go up 6-0. St. Marys finally went up 14-12 on Renner's shot from in the lane. Garrett Yurisko's drive to the tin gave Donahue the 17-16 lead at the close of the opening quarter.
It was more of the same in second quarter as St. Marys nudged ahead 39-38 on an Andrew Cosper transition goal only to see Meeker, despite heavy pressure, drain a 3-pointer from the right wing to send the Bishops into the locker room on top 41-38.
Donahue maintained the lead in the early part of the third quarter, extending it to 54-46 at the 4:44 mark after a Yurisko transition hoop.
The Blue Devils finally caught up at 61-61 on Derek Bayless' conventional three-point play. Renner and D.Bayless then closed out the quarter with back-to-back baskets after Donahue misses to give St. Marys the lead to stay at 65-61.
An Austin Bayless baseline jumper and two free throws by Renner to open the fourth quarter pushed the lead to eight points and the Bishops were never able to closer that six the rest of the way.
Because of a weather postponement earlier in the season, last night's game also served as the championship contest in the St. Marys Holiday Tournament.