By SETH STASKEY
For The Intelligencer
ST. CLAIRSVILLE - The last time St. Clairsville and Martins Ferry played a basketball game they were in the Division II and III regional tournaments, respectively, last March.
St. Clairsville's Brendan Ferns goes up for a shot against Martins Ferry's Robert Vargo (20) during the first quarter of a game Tuesday evening
Both teams opened the new season against one another Tuesday evening, breaking in plenty of new faces.
In the end, however, it was one of the St. C. players who saw some time the last few seasons who grabbed the bull by the horns and took the game over down the stretch.
Senior Jared Derosa caught fire from behind the arc, starting with the last St. C. shot of the third quarter and in the early stages of the fourth.
That allowed the Red Devils to seize control of what had been a back-and-forth affair all evening. Eventually, the Devils pulled away to post a 45-37 victory in front of a large turnout.
"Our seniors led us tonight," St. C. coach Kim Clifford said. "(Jared) hit some really big shots and I'm just proud of how we gutted it out to get the win. There wasn't anything pretty about it, but I am just proud we got it done."
While the Red Devils struggled to score, including going the first 7:56 of the third quarter before they recorded their first field goal of the half, the Purple Riders found the going even tougher on the offensive end.
"A couple of times it looked like they were going to take control and then a couple of times it looked like we were going to take control and neither happened," Ferry coach Jeff Sabatino said. "Those back-to-back threes that Derosa hit were really big because in this kind of game they felt like a touchdown or a hockey goal because points were so hard to come by. We couldn't make any shots."
One of those times it appeared as if the Riders were going to take control was late in the third when they owned a 29-24 lead. However, some unforced turnovers and Derosa's 3 got St. C. to within two entering the final quarter.
"We missed two or three jumpers in the lane, two or three layups and all of them were at critical times," Sabatino said. "We still had chances to win the game. We're a very young team and it showed up."
From there, it was all Red Devils.
"We were down and Jared hit those threes and it was really a big lift for us," Clifford said. "We were kind of like fading a little bit, but his shots were a big pick-me-up. This is a good win against a really good basketball team, so to get a quality win on opening night is huge."
St. C. scored the first nine points of the quarter. Ferry finally broke through on a Jake Barritt layup. Derosa's two bonus goals were complemented by a slashing hoop by freshman Michael Scarnecchia.
The Riders got as close as three on a Robert Vargo stickback, which made it 36-33. From there, the Devils scored seven in a row and put it away by making their final eight foul shots.
"I think that our offense will get better," Clifford said. "We weren't terrible on offense, but we missed a lot of free throws. We'll need to hit those to win. I thought we rebounded well and pretty much owned the boards in the second half."
Derosa finished with 19 points. Sophomore point guard Daniel Trouten had a strong varsity debut as he finished with 14.
The Purple Riders were paced by Vargo and Barritt. Each had 11 points. Vargo - utilizing his 6-6 frame - grabbed 16 rebounds.
"This was a game where there were a couple of times that if we make a couple of plays, we've got the upperhand," Sabatino said. "I really think we can play much better and that's what my job's all about ... getting us to play better."