MARTINS FERRY - State-ranked Steubenville started and finished with a flourish Saturday afternoon and remained undefeated with a hard-fought 58-37 victory against Martins Ferry inside the Tolbert Gymnasium.
The Big Red girls, ranked seventh in The Associated Press' latest Ohio Division II poll, moved to 16-0 with a date at Linsly (12-1) up next Monday night. The Purple Riders, meanwhile, dropped to 3-11. They play host to Buckeye Local, also on Monday.
''We played about three quarters,'' Steubenville coach Phil Casinelli said. ''In the second quarter, we played hard, but we just weren't efficient on the defensive or offensive ends.''
The Purple Riders trailed by as many as 12 in the first half, but clawed back to pull within three early in the third quarter. From there, Big Red went on a 27-4 explosion to put the game away.
''I believed in us,'' Martins Ferry coach Lindsey Coyne said. ''I knew going in that if my team showed up, the one that wanted to play hard and attack and do everything hard and play with heart, they can do anything they want to do.
''There's not a team on our schedule I don't think we can compete with.''
With Steubenville leading 3-2, Big Red went on a 13-0 spurt to take a 16-2 advantage and went to lead 16-4 at the end of the first. Leading the way was Mytia Barker, who scored six of her team-leading 18 points during the quarter.
The Purple Riders started to slowly rally in the second period. A 3-point play by Maliah Coleman made the score 21-14 with 2:45 left in the period. Then, early in the third, Coleman, who paced Martins Ferry with 14 points, scored on a layup making the score 30-26 with 5:32 showing on the clock.
The Purple Riders took advantage of Steubenville's cold shooting - Big Red was 4 of 11 from the field in the second quarter - as well as a staunch defense.
''The old saying says defense wins championships and that's how we got back into it,'' Coyne said. ''We got help on defense, were denying the ball and making them turn the ball over. That's how we got back in it.
''Morgan (Stalder) looked for her shot and busted a few 3s. We really started chipping away during the second quarter.''
Barker hit one of two free throws to give Big Red a 31-26 lead. But Coleman came right back with a layup making the score 31-28 with 3:20 left in the period.
Ferry's Tyrah King fouled out with 4:35 left in the third, making it difficult for the Purple Riders to maintain their momentum.
Steubenville outscored Ferry 27-9 after King fouled out. Coleman scored the final five points of the game.
''We played good defense and pressured the ball,'' Casinelli said. ''We were able to convert those into transition buckets and that just gets us going.''
Lysiah Rice also scored 18 for Big Red. Emiley Masloski, Steubenville's 1,000-point scorer, had eight.
''This isn't a team that just doesn't run through Emiley,'' Casinelli said. ''This is a team that runs through the five girls we have on the court. We have a lot of scorers and everyone knows their roles.
''We just have a lot of leaders.''