WEIRTON - Madonna jumped on Cameron early then hung on for a 51-46 Class A Region One, Section One tournament victory Saturday night inside the Dube Dome.
The Blue Dons (14-8) raced out to a 14-2 lead after one and held a 29-14 advantage the break. Senior Ross Comis scored 11 in the opening period and finished the half with 17. He tried seven shots from behind the arc, knocking down five.
Freshman Joey Ewusiak scored seven in the second, with three 3-pointers, as George Vargo's club shot just under 50 percent (11 for 24) from the floor during the initial 16 minutes.
The Dragons (13-9) struggled in the shooting department. They attempted 13 first period shots, making just one. They were a little better in the second, hitting four of 11. The shooting woes were obvious from the charity stripe also where Cameron made only three of 10. In addition, Chad Clutter's team was guilty of 12 turnovers.
To its credit, Cameron did a much better job in the second half, connecting on 11 of 24 field goal tries. That showing allowed the Dragons to outscore the hosts, 32-22. The Dons, however, made some key plays down the stretch and advanced to the tournament semifinals.
"We're happy to get out of the Dube Dome with a win," Vargo said. "We played hard in the first half but in the second, our guards didn't take care of the ball. By doing that, probably six to eight points got away from us. That's why it became a five-point game at the end and got very interesting."
Ryan Clutter's hoop midway through the fourth pulled Cameron to within five (42-37). The Dons responded by scoring six of the next eight. Tyler Ewusiak scored from the paint and Nick Mazur scored off an assist by Comis. Josh Martin's bucket put the Dons up 48-39.
Skyler Canas drilled a 3 with 52 seconds left, cutting the lead to five again at 48-43. A Comis foul shot and another Tyler Ewusiak bucket helped put the game away. Canas' third 3 of the evening finished the scoring.
"Give Cameron a lot of credit," Vargo said. "When you have two good guards like Coach Clutter does in his two boys (sophomore twins Ryan and Cole), you can push the ball, handle it and run a solid offense. When you can do that in high school basketball, you are going to be pretty darn good. My hat is off to them, 13 wins may be the most they have had in years.
"You have to win four quarters. I can't figure out why we can't do things like we did in the first half for four quarters. We have a couple of freshmen playing point guard and they're doing a pretty darn good job. But they're still young and sometimes make mistakes. (Saturday), collectively we made mistakes. We didn't make shots we should make and you can't have that at tournament time. We kept our composure at the end, made a few foul shots and took the ball to the hole."
As Chad Clutter pointed out, Cameron "dug a big hole in the first half."
"I think it came down to our free throws and some of that started in the first half," he said. "But I've rarely seen the tenacity that our group of kids showed. I'm really proud of the way they came back in the second half and fought. Probably 90 percent of the people in the bleachers didn't think we had a chance and we got to within four points.
"We just fell short, maybe because of nerves or whatever you want to call it. We definitely had some breakdowns in the first half. Look at the foul shots. They are freebies and maybe we talk away with a W."
The Dragons were just nine for 23 from the line during the contest. The Dons weren't much better, hitting nine of 19 attempts.
Comis took game scoring honors with 23. J. Ewusiak contributed 10 and Martin seven.
Canas paced Cameron with 13 while Logan Routt had 12 to go along with 13 rebounds and eight blocks. Zach Hall chipped in nine.
"We had six seniors and we have a nice young group coming back," Clutter said. "Thirteen wins is good. I am so proud of the way these guys fight."
Madonna will continue tournament play Tuesday, visiting top-seeded Wheeling Central. The tip is set for 7 p.m.