GLEN DALE - John Marshall girls' basketball coach Mark McCormick always talks about the importance of his three seniors - Kylie Howard, Kristin Lewicki and Morgan Watson - as being keys to making his team go.
Saturday afternoon with Martins Ferry paying a visit, Lewicki was forced to watch from the sidelines with a bruised knee while Howard, who still led the Monarchs in scoring, spent most of the contest in foul trouble. That left Watson, who did not disappoint her coach or team in picking up the slack.
Howard scored a team-high 19 points while Watson added 14, all of which seemed to come in big situations, and John Marshall took advantage of a rough third quarter by the Purple Riders to take control and hold on for a big 57-53 victory on Coach "B" Court at John Marshall High School.
The victory moves the Monarchs to 10-2, heading into a big week against Parkersburg South and Wheeling Park, which McCormick believes Lewicki will be back in the lineup for. Meanwhile, Lindsay Coyne's Ferry squad falls to 9-4 on the season.
"Morgan Watson just did a tremendous job for us (Saturday)," McCormick said with a smile. "We were missing Kristen, Kylie had some foul trouble and everyone has to remember that our two big freshmen are still only 14-years-old. Morgan stepped up big-time on defense and got us some big baskets on the other end.
"She just does so many things that you don't see pop up on the stat sheet, and she is really gaining confidence as we start coming up on the meat of our schedule."
The teams played even for much of the first half, tied at 13-13 after one with the Riders holding a slim 30-29 edge at halftime.
Standout Jessica Kinney tallied 12 of her game-high 26 points in the second quarter, while Watson helped the hosts stay close with a pair of treys and eight points of her own.
But the third period proved to be the difference as John Marshall outscored Martins Ferry by a 10-4 margin as the Purple Riders were a dreadful 0 of 14 from the field in the quarter. The Monarchs scored the initial eight points of the quarter while the visitors hit four charity tosses and McCormick's girls had a 39-34 lead after three.
With Kinney scoring nine more in the fourth and Tyrah King adding 10 of her 14, Ferry cut the deficit to three on three occasions and eventually whittled the deficit down to one at 52-51 on a King hoop with 1:07 to play. But a Sissy George basket at 56 seconds and a free throw with 23 showing pushed the score to 55-51.
Freshmen Tori Derrow and Bailey Filben each hit one of two charity tosses down the stretch while King banked in a shot with three seconds to go for the final score.
"Martins Ferry is a very good team and we got into some foul trouble," McCormick said. "We also missed some easy shots inside early on, but the girls pulled it together and we got things done."
As For Coyne, it all came down to the basics.
"We had some good looks, but it all comes down to making shots, it's that simple," Coyne said. "But we played hard and we competed. The heart, hustle and intensity were there, but sometimes you just don't get the "W". I am still very proud of these girls and I know we can win a lot more.
"The only negative I can come up with is struggling at the free throw line, and every girl on this team needs to look in the mirror, get better and practice on their own. I told them it is easy math, we missed nine free throws and lost by four points."
Derrow added 11 points and nine rebounds for the winners while Emily Winters pulled down 10 missed shots.
Statistically everything was very similar with Ferry hitting 17 of 55 from the field while John Marshall was 18 of 53. Both teams were 16 of 25 from the line.