ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Veteran Martins Ferry boys' basketball coach Jeff Sabatino knew the deck was stacked against him Friday night.
First of all, his Purple Riders had to travel to the hilltop to meet Division II-ranked St. Clairsville in a Buckeye 8 matchup. Secondly, they had to do it short-handed as senior Tyler Strama, who was just returning to the lineup from a football injury, is again sidelined with a concussion and broken nose.
Those two factors helped result in a 76-42 victory for the Red Devils (10-1) before a packed house on John Jenkins Court.
Martin’s Ferry’s Emilio Appoloni (23) looks to make a play while surrounded by Red Devils.
''They are a very good basketball team and they were awfully good (Friday),'' Sabatino said. ''To come in here and have to start two freshmen and a sophomore against that team on this night was a real uphill battle from the start.''
Indeed it was, as the Red Devils were clicking on all cylinders and them some, as they rode a balanced scoring effort that saw a trio of starters combine for 60 points.
Senior standout Dan Monteroso didn't waste any time in making his presence known as he tallied 11 of his team's 14 first-quarter points. The hosts led 14-12 as Martins Ferry's Cody Schau netted eight points to keep it close.
While the 6-foot-3 Monteroso was tacking on 10 points in the second quarter via a variety of moves that included a one-handed putdown, classmate Adam Jeffries was lighting it up from beyond the bonus arc.
Jeffries knocked down a trio of 3s that helped the Red Devils build a 29-19 lead.
However, the highlight of the second quarter was Riley Carlton's steal and buzzer-beating 3 from deep in the left corner. That shot gave the hosts a 38-23 advantage at the half.
Jerrid Marhefka, who did an outstanding defensive job on Schau, Jeffries and Monteroso dropped in consecutive 3s to start the third quarter and the rout was on.
A 24-12 scoring advantage ballooned the margin to 62-35, veteran St. Clairsville head coach Kim Clifford called the dogs off early in the fourth.
''We made a lot of shots and played really good defense, especially against their big guys inside,'' Clifford said. ''I was really pleased that we made it difficult for them to get the ball into them.''
Monteroso finished with 30 points and 11 rebounds - both game-highs. Jeffries added 16 points and Carlton netted 14. That duo combined for eight bonus goals.
Schau led the Purple Riders with 18 points, but no one else would reach double figures. Emilio Appolloni added nine, while Robert Vargo chipped in seven.
Monteroso, already the school's all-time leading scorer, pulled to within 36 points of the coveted 2,000-point mark.