CADIZ - Nick Yourkovich believed in November that his team had a legitimate shot to play for championships in February.
His belief has proven to be true.
It's officially February and Yourkovich's Harrison Central Huskies have earned the right to play for the OVAC Class 4A championship.
Harrison Central’s Kara Dunfee drives around St. Clairsville’s Carlee Gillespie in the OVAC 4A Tournament Monday night.
The Huskies will take on Steubenville at 12:30 Saturday afternoonin the title game of the Wheeling Hospital OVAC Girls Basketball Championship after dispatching third-seeded St. Clairsville, 59-50, inside a jam-packed and electric John W. Stephenson Center.
"This was one of our goals, but after the first two games (of the season), we were a little bit up in the air," Yourkovich said. "Our chemistry wasn't right early in the season, but the last 10 or so, we've really been playing well. We're very excited. We wanted to be playing at OUE on Saturday."
The Huskies and Red Devils had split their two prior meetings this season and the first half the game was played within a five-point window the entire way and was knotted at 23-23 at half.
That trend continued into the early stages of the third quarter as the teams traded baskets. St. Clairsville owned a 31-30 lead after a short jumper by sophomore Anna DeFillipo.
From there, however, it was all Huskies.
D.J. Keesey and Kara Dunfee ignited the run with an inside score and a 3-pointer from the wing. All told, the spurt was 16-1 and gave Harrison Central a 46-32 edge before St. C. senior Carlee Gillespie scored the final five of the period.
"We let them get to the basket too much in the first half," Yourkovich said. "That caused us to get into a little bit of foul trouble. We knew we had to stop penetration and rebound the ball because we thought shooting was a deficiency for them, so we wanted to make them prove it from the outside."
The Red Devils, who had shot the ball well from the perimeter late in the season, were off most of the evening. They connected on only two 3-pointers and both were by DeFilippo.
"I thought we played very, very hard, but we just didn't have our best shooting night," St. C. coach Alicia Freeman said. "Each time we would start to make something happen, they would come back and hit a shot, which is a credit to them. That run they made in the third quarter was definitely the difference in the game."
The Huskies were able to fight the Red Devils off by going to the interior and talented junior Katie Ellzy. The Robert Morris softball commit scored 14 of her game-high 20 in the second half. She also controlled the interior with 14 boards.
St. Clairsville didn't get any closer than nine in the fourth.
Along with Ellzy's production, Keesy added 10 points and eight rebounds. Dunfee finished with nine.
St. C. was led by Alexis St. Clair, who finished with 15 despite battling foul trouble. Gillespie and DeFilippo went for 14 and 11, respectively.
Harrison Central overcame 19 turnovers, which was four more than the visitors. The Huskies held a 36-32 edge on the glass.
The loss sends St. Clairsville, into a Thursday consolation game against Oak Glen on John Jenkins Court.
"(Winning the OVAC) is a goal we didn't get," Freeman said. "I am disappointed we're not playing for the OVAC, but I am not disappointed in this team. They worked hard until the time ran out, and I am proud of that. We'll now focus on the (Ohio sectional) tournament because teams are determined by what they do in the postseason."