MCMECHEN - Seeking a third victory this season against scrappy Beallsville, homestanding Bishop Donahue jumped in front 11-0 but then had to weather a familiar storm Tuesday night inside the Fr. Raymond Jablonski Memorial Gymnasium.
Blue Devils' senior standout Terryn Jarrett exploded for 32 points and had Beallsville within two possessions of a tie three times in the fourth quarter only to see the Bishops hang on for the 73-66 victory in the semifinals of the Wheeling Hospital/Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Class 1A Basketball Championships.
''Jarrett is averaging 33 (points) against us," Bishop Donahue coach Tom Wise pointed out. ''He had 38 over there when we beat them by one." The 1,000-point career scorer for Beallsville hit for 28 in the previous visit to the Bishops' home court, but the Blue Devils also wound up on the short end of the score.
Tuesday, Jarrett hit on five 3-point attempts and scored 19 of his 32 points during the second half. He was Beallsville's only double-figure scorer as its record dropped back below the .500 mark at 9-10.
Bishop Donahue's narrow victory put Wise's youthful but talented squad into the conference small school title game for the third time in the last five years. The Bishops split back-to-back OVAC finals appearances against Bridgeport in 2009 and 2010.
On Saturday evening, they will be matched up against rangy Conotton Valley in the championship game.
''We're having a pretty good year for a bunch of young kids that are still learning how to play," Wise said after the Bishops improved their record to 12-7. Donahue's starting lineup this season consists of two juniors and a sophomore. Overall, the green and gold's roster has just two seniors, both of whom fill roles coming off the bench.
''This was a tough game to survive," Wise continued.
''We came out really fast and Bryce (Jones) shot the ball well early, but they just wouldn't go away."
The biggest play of the night might have been turned in by Bishops' sophomore Jesse Padlow with under two minutes on the clock after two free throws by Jarrett narrowed the Blue Devils' deficit to 66-62.
Beallsville thought it had slapped the ball away from Padlow as he advanced past half court. However, the determined Bishop point guard kept hustling, got his hands on the basketball and, in the same motion, passed it inside to Chaice Truex for an easy shot off the glass.
''I thought we were going to get a steal, but it landed back in their hands and they got a layup." Blue Devils' coach Casey Tolzda said.
''I told our kids we had to have a good start and we didn't. After it was 11-0, we played right with them. I'm really proud of our kids. They fought and scrapped and really hustled until the end," Tolzda added.
After Padlow's key play, the Blue Devils got within four again when Logan Nippert drove to the rim for a basket and he drew a foul on the play. Nippert missed the foul shot that could have trimmed the deficit to three.
Jared Yates cashed one of two at the line for the Bishops. Padlow pulled down a rebound after a Beallsville miss and got the ball to Yates, who was fouled again he made both shots this time for a 71-64 advantage.
Jarrett's basket was followed by Josh Miller's two free throws that wrapped up the scoring.
Jones scored all 17 of his points in the opening half to spark the Bishops into a 41-30 advantage. Jones scored 11 points during the first quarter, twice draining 3s and adding a conventional three-point play. The Bishops' leading scorer on the season had a chance for a second hoop and harm conversion but his free throw was off the mark.
Jones connected on two more 3s in the second quarter, while Miller had five points and collected four rebounds. In the third quarter, Jarrett launched Beallsville's comeback with nine points, cutting Donahue's lead to 52-47 entering the final eight minutes.
Three other Bishops reached double figures. Miller enjoyed a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds, while Padlow added a dozen and Truex scored 11 points, while also yanking down eight rebounds. Lavonte Hampton came off the Donahue bench to contribute eight points and also grabbed five rebounds.
''Miller is really doing a good job for us on the boards," Wise said, while pointing out that the steady-playing sophomore is averaging double-figures in rebounding. ''He had 21 rebounds in one game this year. ''While he's not a real large kid, his desire helps him get the job done."