CHARLESTON - During last season's run to the Class A championship, Weirton Madonna's Drazen Frankovitch saw limited minutes, mainly playing behind Mario Yacoviello.
So far, he's making the most of his opportunity. Frankovitch scored 23 points with 14 rebounds, leading Weirton Madonna to a 66-53 victory against Trinity on Thursday in the quarterfinals of the West Virginia State Boys' Basketball Tournament at the Charleston Civic Center, a rematch of last season's title game.
Weirton Madonna (23-3) will play Charleston Catholic, which hung on to beat Man, at 11:15 a.m. today in the semifinals. The Blue Dons defeated the Irish, 53-42, in the semifinals last seasons.
Weirton Madonna’s Clay Rokisky (20) eyes his defender as Blue Dons coach George Vargo looks on during Thursday’s West Virginia Class A state semifinal in Charleston.
Photo by Josh Strope
"(Trinity) played really hard and so did my teammates," Frankovitch said. "They were trying to get me the ball in the first half but (Trinity) was really coming down us.
"They eased up in the second half, going to a man. When I got the ball in the second half, we got it together and scored."
Trinity (17-8) had no answer for Frankovitch.
The 6-foot-6 senior had his way inside. He bulled his way over defenders and fought for every loose ball. When the Blue Dons missed a shot, he was there seven times to clean up the offensive boards for extra possessions.
"We considered (doubling Frankovitch) and a couple times planned to do it but guys didn't get there in time," Trinity coach Herman Pierson said. "Early in the game, he didn't hurt us."
Frankovitch went scoreless in the first quarter and Pierson wishes the whole game went like those first 8 minutes.
The Warriors scored 27 points in the opening quarter to jump on the defending champs, hitting five 3-pointers, three from Jared Jento. Trinity scored 26 points the rest of the game.
As Trinity went cold, Weirton Madonna started to heat up.
Down 11 to enter the quarter, the Blue Dons rode the back of Frankovitch, who scored nine points with five rebounds in the quarter.
Weirton Madonna tied it two times in the final 1:35 on baskets by Frankovitch, the last one on a nice spin move to make the score 33-33 heading into the locker room.
Trinity's Cody Triplett gave the Warriors at 35-33 lead, but Weirton Madonna answered with a 7-0 run to grab its first lead since 4-3. After another basket by Triplett, the Blue Dons finished the quarter by scoring the last 10 points, heading into the final stanza up 13.
Trinity closed the deficit to no fewer than nine points as Weirton Madonna held even in the quarter to advance to today's rematch with Charleston Catholic.
Frankovitch emphatically put a stamp on his game with a vicious block of Tommy Retton in the closing minute as he was driving to the basket. He broke free up the court for a dunk, but time expired before the senior was able to put the ball through the hoop.
"The second quarter, we decided to switch to a zone half-court defense to a half-court man and these guys did a heckuva good job," Weirton Madonna coach George Vargo said. "We held them to six and four points in the second and third quarters and our man defense turned out to be very productive.
"We were energized (coming into the second half) and I think the confidence started to build as we made our run. That energy helped us coming out of the locker room."
Clay Rokisky added 17 points for the Blue Dons, followed by Ross Comis with 12. Nick Battista snagged 10 rebounds.
The Warriors were paced by Triplett's 19 points. Retton had 12 and Jento scored 11.
"They have a little more experience than us and it showed," Pierson said. "We started forcing some things that we didn't force early in the game. Shooting, sometimes you are cold, but (Thursday) was a matter of first quarter, we didn't force. We worked, we passed, we waited for that open shot. Percentages, it's amazing how much higher they are when you don't have someone in your face.
"They picked their defense up and we weren't patient. We got outrebounded and Rokisky and Frankovitch are a handful for anybody."