By Seth Staskey
For The Intelligencer
CAMBRIDGE - The St. Clairsville Red Devils haven't played in a district semifinal since 2009 when they were in Division II.
That will change on Feb. 27, however.
The Red Devils are headed for Steubenville High School's Crimson Center after claiming the sectional co-title Tuesday evening inside the Gene Ford Gymnasium by virtue of a 60-52 victory against Ridgewood.
"It's been a long time since we've seen the district semifinals," St. Clairsville coach Alicia Freeman said. "This is huge for our girls and our program."
Next up for St. C. (17-6) is a date with either Fort Frye or Sandy Valley. They'll meet in Guernsey County on Thursday.
"We'll prepare just like we always do and continue to take it one game at a time," Freeman said.
Since the Red Devils take it one game at a time, Freeman made sure her team's focus lied strictly on Ridgewood.
St. Clairsville led 24-20 at half thanks in large part to talented sophomore guard Anna DeFilippo.
DeFilippo, who scored only seven points in the sectional opener last week, came up huge in the middle two chapters.
"Anna was on fire tonight," Freeman said. "She scored 11 points in the second and continued to knock down shots into the third when she scored nine more."
At one point, DeFilippo had registered 17 consecutive points for the Red Devils.
DeFilippo's scoring was sandwiched between two big trifectas from senior Brigee Mick, who didn't miss a shot from behind the line in the two sectional tournament games.
St. C. opened the game up in the latter stages of the third quarter. After talented Ridgewood pivot Laura Frazee scored to bring the Lady Generals within seven, St. C. exploded on a 9-0 run.
That spurt included a DeFilippo bonus goal, a Carlee Gillespie 3 and then a conventional three-point play from hard-working junior Alexis St. Clair.
"That stretch was really because of our defense," Freeman said. "I always tell them if they play defense, good things will come (on offense), and that's what happened."
Ridgewood climbed back within 13, 45-32, when senior Erica Olinger hit a 3 just before the buzzer.
The West Lafayette-based team built momentum from that shot, but each time it sensed a big run, either DeFilippo or St. Clair seemed to have an answer.
"Ridgewood made us work for four quarters, and we don't go real deep, so maybe fatigue was a factor somewhat for us (defensively) in the fourth," Freeman said.
As Freeman expected, Ridgewood didn't go away without a fight.
The Generals, who had dispatched Barnesville last week, got as close as two at 54-52 after a driving bucket from Junior Amanda Lowery.
"I think our girls got shook up a little bit when Ridgewood started to come back," Freeman said. "We called a time and stressed to them to just stay calm. I am just proud of our girls because Ridgewood is a good team that's much bigger than us. We battled and fought the whole way."
However, the Red Devils finally were able to knock down their charity tosses. After struggling for most of the fourth quarter, Mick, DeFilippo and Gillespie all knocked down a pair of freebies, which salted the game away.
DeFilippo finished with a game-high 24 points. Mick added 14 and St. Clair, who had the tough task of defending Frazee all night, finished with 11 points and eight rebounds. Gillespie added nine points.
Frazee led Ridgewood with a quiet 19 points. She racked up 10 of those in the fourth.
The Devils, who were guilty of 27 turnovers against West Muskingum, committed only 11 giveaways, which was seven fewer than the Lady Generals.