WELLSBURG - Weirton Madonna achieved something it wasn't able to do while on its way to winning the West Virginia Class A state boys' basketball championship last season.
With the injured Clay Rokisky coming off the bench early to score 20 points and 6-foot-6 Drazen Frankovitch recording a damaging double-double, the Blue Dons went on a 10-1 run late in the fourth quarter to finally slip past Bishop Donahue, 63-56, during Friday night's West Virginia Section One Class A title scrap at Brooke High School.
In last year's sectional final, Madonna was toppled by Wheeling Central but rebounded to knock off four straight opponents to capture the school's first state basketball crown.
Weirton Madonna’s Nick Battista (10) looks to make a pass as Bishop Donahue’s Garrett Yurisko (20) looks on Friday night.
Photo by Mike Mathison
This time, Coach George Vargo's Blue Dons (21-3) are hopeful of using a victory against the Bishops as a springboard to a repeat title.
Weirton Madonna will play host to Parkersburg Catholic next Wednesday night in the regional tournament, while Bishop Donahue hopes to possibly duplicate the Blue Dons' 2011 run starting that same night against homestanding St. Marys.
''We need that 32 minutes of close-to-perfection basketball and I know it is out there for us,'' Wise said. ''I told our kids that we still have one game sometime where we are all going to show up and play like we are capable of playing together.''
Vargo obviously agrees that Bishop Donahue (14-9) can be a tough out for anybody.
''They're like rug rats. They just won't go away," Vargo said. ''They've got speed and they've got heart."
The Bishops just didn't quite have enough to get past a Blue Dons squad that had too much height and firepower. Rokisky drained four of Madonna's nine 3-pointers, at least two of his long-distance bombs coming from several steps behind the arc.
''He made some unbelievable shots," Wise said. ''Chad (Riedel) had a hand in his face on most of those shots and he still made them."
Vargo was relieved the Blue Dons' senior all-stater was able to hang in there and have a big night after injuring his leg during the semifinal victory against Wheeling Central.
''Clay fought through a lot to be out there," Vargo said. ''I didn't plan on playing him more than 10 or 12 minutes but it turned out we needed him in there.''
Frankovitch's domination in the paint was another problem for the Bishops. Frankovitch pulled down a game-high 14 rebounds, nearly half coming underneath the offensive glass. Four of the his six goals were the result of grabbing a teammate's missed shot and depositing the ball off the window into the net.
''Frankovitch got at least three critical offensive rebounds that I remember," Wise recalled. ''One of them came late in the game when we really needed a stop."
Four of Madonna's 3-pointers, two by Ross Comis and one each from Rokisky and Josh Egyud, came in the first quarter as the Blue Dons sprinted out to an 18-10 lead.
Two steals resulted in back-to-back drives to the rim for layups by spunky Bishop Donahue senior guard Garrett Yurisko to open the second quarter. A few minutes later, the Bishops showed some 3-point accuracy of their own as Bryce Jones and Riedel nailed back-to-back shots to give Wise's team the lead at 24-22.
After Frankovitch's putback tied the score, Jones' trifecta made it 27-24 only to see Rokisky rain in a game-tying basket from the left baseline. Connor Mogan's only basket of the game and Nick Battista's foul toss sent Weirton Madonna off the court ahead 30-27 at halftime.
The Blue Dons threatened to blow things open in the third quarter with two more Rokisky 3-pointers and one by Battista, plus Comis' conventional three-point play that gave them their first double-digit lead at 44-34.
Donahue the came up with a 14-5 spurt that carried over into the fourth quarter, cutting the deficit to 49-48. Riedel's 3-pointer opened the final period and he later had a shot to tie things up again but missed the front end of a two-shot foul before hitting the second attempt.
Frankovitch cashed 1 of 2 at the line, followed by a sparkling assist from Battista to Rokisky for a one-hander from in front of the rim to extend the lead to 52-48. Comis knocked in two free throws ahead of D.T. Meeker's foul shot that got the Bishops within 54-49 with 4 minutes remaining.
Comis then buried a 3-pointer and Frankovitch's fourth stickback put the lead back at 10 points, 59-49 with 3 minutes to play. Donahue eventually got within 61-54 on Austin Ghaphery's two foul shots at the 48-second mark. But Rokisky went 2-for-4 on back-to-back trips to the foul line to clinch the victory.
Frankovich and Comis finished with 13 points each, while Battista had 12 points and five assists.
Riedel chipped in with an excellent all-around performance, scoring 14 points and grabbing a team-high 10 rebounds. Meeker, unable to attack along the baseline as usual because of Madonna's size advantage, had 10 points, as did Jones.