CHARLESTON - In a game that was nip and tuck throughout, no one inside the Civic Center Colisuem could have predicted Charleston Catholic would outscore Weirton Madonna 31-9 in the fourth quarter of their Class A semifinal Friday.
Weirton Madonna trailed by two points entering the final 8 minutes but couldn't find the shooting touch as it saw its run at a second straight state championship come to an end with a 70-46 loss.
The Blue Dons' biggest enemy might not have been the Irish, but themselves. Weirton Madonna (23-4) committed 26 fouls, sending Charleston Catholic (23-3) to attempt 38 free throws.
Madonna’s Clay Rokisky drives past a Charleston Catholic defender Friday.
In a tournament that has been filled with ranting and raving about officials, Weirton Madonna coach George Vargo was easily the most vocal.
''I see a stat sheet that shows one team shooting 38 foul shots and one team shooting (16),'' Vargo said. ''I see what was a great basketball game until RV894, RV485, and RV863 (the numbers of the officials) got involved. That is a shame that you have to come to a state tournament game and take away a game from kids at the foul line.
''That is a rotten shame. One of my kids got kicked right in the head, three officials out there and not one of them sees it. Did Charleston Catholic play great? Hell yeah Charleston Catholic played great. But Charleston Catholic also scored 26 points from the foul line. If you understand anything about coaching and the tempo of a game, you can't play a basketball game when the officials blow the whistle every 5 seconds.
''You can't win a basketball game when the officials don't let the kids play. You can't win a basketball game in the tournament with this kind of officiating. It's totally absurd. My kids played hard until RV894, RV485, and RV863 got involved.''
Drazen Frankovitch, who played a big part in the semifinal victory against Trinity, spent most of this game as a spectator. He picked up two early fouls and two more early in the second half. He had as many fouls (four) as he did rebounds (three) and points (one) combined.
The offense struggled all game with Frankovitch on the bench as Clay Rokisky was the only Blue Don who finished in double figures with 15 points.
On defense, Madonna had no answer for Charleston Catholic's Haston Gerencir, who played his best game of the season.
Gerencir was 11 of 15 from the field (4-for-6 from 3-point land) on his way to 28 points, which is 16 above his average.
He scored eight in the fourth quarter, including his final 3 that started a 22-1 run for the Irish.
''Once you hit a shot or two, you want to keep shooting the ball because you have the hot hand,'' Gerencir said. ''The momentum of the crowd, I was feeling it.''
With Gerencir scoring at will and Frankovitch's big body sitting in a chair, Charleston Catholic coach Bill McClanahan put the focus clearly on Rokisky and limiting him.
''That young man is as good a Single-A athlete as we have ever seen, if not the best,'' McClanahan said of the Cleveland State recruit. ''That young man is legitimate. Once Frankovitch was out, we knew any inside presence they had was with Rokisky so we tried to limit his touches. When he got the ball in the perimeter, the kid stepped up and hit some nice 3s, so we wanted someone to be with him wherever he was.
''We didn't want him or (Ross) Comis getting off and we had to control (Nick) Battista because he makes them go.''
Comis had a rough day shooting, especially in the fourth quarter when he went 0-for-8, all from beyond the arc. Battista had eight points to go with a bunch of bumps and bruises that resulted from the physical play.
In the fourth quarter, Madonna shot 2 of 17, while Charleston Catholic was 5 of 7 from the field and 10-for-15 from the free-throw line.
''We got very, very cold in the fourth but how do you have a rhythm when there is 38 fouls called?'' Vargo said. ''How do you have a rhythm when every time you turn around, one of my players is getting fouled? How do you have a rhythm? How do you have a rhythm?
''Maybe it is about time someone like me stands up for his team and questions the officiating in the state tournament. This was a good high school basketball game but RV894, RV485, and RV863 did a bad job officiating (Friday).''
Keaghan Ritchie added 12 points for the Irish, who play St. Marys for the Class A title at 2:30 p.m. today.