MARTINS FERRY - "Big Red" was nothing short of huge for Martins Ferry on Wednesday night.
Robert Vargo, a 6-foot-6 tower of power, poured in a career-high 32 points while grabbing 16 rebounds and blocking five shots in leading the Purple Riders to a 65-52 comeback victory against rival Bellaire.
"Robert was sensational. He has been all season, but he took it to another level (Wednesday)," Martins Ferry coach Jeff Sabatino said. "He was a force at both ends of the floor."
The victory was the 11th in 19 starts for Ferry, which will will travel to Lisbon on Friday night to take on Beaver Local in an OVAC consolation contest.
Bellaire, meanwhile, continues to make great strides under J.R. Battista. The Big Reds, coming off a tough road victory 24 hours earlier at Shenandoah, dropped to 8-13. The Reds play host to Shadyside on Friday in another OVAC consolation tilt.
The Big Reds came out on fire, racing to a 13-3 lead midway through the first quarter. Nathan Steele sparked the surge with a pair of 3-pointers while the visitors also received five points from Michael Neil.
As the visitors were hot, the Purple Riders were having issues at the foul line, missing five of their first six tries in the opening quarter.
Much to their credit, the hosts battled through to knot matters at 15-15 at the end of one, thanks, in part, to eight Vargo points. Arjay Burress added five for the Purple while the Reds' Tyler Ramsey had an equal amount.
Bellaire regained the momentum in the second as Ramsey and Steele evenly split 16 points to enable Bellaire to take a 34-29 lead into halftime.
Ferry switched out of its traditional zone defense and went man in the third quarter.
Sabatino's moved paid immediate dividends as the Riders rolled to a 20-10 advantage, grabbing a five-point lead and the momentum heading into the final eight minutes. Vargo owned the inside with eight points while James Edwards produced six points in the fourth.
The hosts methodically pulled away in the fourth as Vargo closed out his magnificent work with 10 more points.
"We dug ourselves a hole right off the bat. But give Bellaire credit. They shot the ball very well, as good as I have seen them in a long time," Sabatino said. "But we just kept battling and eventually dug ourselves out. I thought all seven guys who played in the second half made positive contributions."
Vargo's top support came from Emilio Appolloni. The 6-8 sophomore chipped in with nine points to go with nine blocked shots and eight rebounds. Edwards and Burress each netted seven points while point guard Jake Barritt had six points.
Bellaire displayed offensive balance as Ramsey led the way with 16 points while Steele and Neil added 14 and 12, respectively.