STEUBENVILLE - Defensive pressure and red-hot free-throw shooting made the difference Friday as Steubenville Catholic whipped Madonna 69-44 on Senior Night.
The Blue Dons, playing their second game in as many nights, hung with the Crusaders for the opening 16 minutes and trailed by five (27-22) at the break. Sean Tucker's club turned up the defensive heat in the third and Madonna fell apart, committing 10 turnovers.
Steubenville Catholic took advantage of those miscues to run off 15 consecutive points. A 3-pointer by Matt Martello capped the burst and put the Crusaders ahead 43-24. The hosts outscored Madonna 21-8 during the period to grab a 48-30 lead.
Steubenville Catholic’s Michael Barber (3) and Ryan Fletcher surround Madonna’s Anthony Antinone in Friday’s game.
Steubenville Catholic knocked down 11 of 14 free tosses in building the double-digit spread.
When discussing the third-quarter turnaround, Tucker credited ''great adjustments at halftime.''
''We talked to the kids and pointed some things out that we needed to change,'' he said.
''The kids executed those change in the third quarter. They wanted to win and they wanted to play hard.''
Madonna's George Vargo noted ''they picked up the tempo on defense and we couldn't handle it. We have young guards, a young team and we're going through some growing pains.''
For the game, played before a standing-room-only crowd inside the Mickey Barber Gymnasium, Steubenville Catholic was 76 percent from the line, knocking down 28 of 37 tries.
Steubenville Catholic held a 12-10 lead after one quarter. Madonna was able to stay close thanks to six points from James Carnes. Ryan Fletcher scored six of his own during the second.
Fletcher started the third with a free throw before Madonna's Josh Martin made it 28-24 with a putback. From there, it was all Steubenville Catholic.
Michael Barber got the scoring burst going when he tickled the twine from behind the arc. Fletcher followed with a conventional three-point play and the Crusaders then cashed in six straight free tosses before Martello's triple.
Fletcher paced Steubenville Catholic (14-4) in scoring with 16 points. Brenton Colabella added 14, Martello contributed 11 and Barber nine. The Crusaders collected 28 rebounds, Zach Herrington getting eight.
Hard-working Will Bowser had eight to lead Madonna (5-10) Nate Guio and Tyler Ewusiak each had seven.