Bridgeport Bounces Back
By KIM NORTH
For The Intelligencer
BARNESVILLE – If there was any doubt about a let down by the Bridgeport girls’ basketball team, it didn’t happen Monday night.
Forty-eight hours after suffering their first loss of the season in 21 starts, the state-ranked Bulldogs (21-1) made quick work of the homestanding Shamrocks (11-9) inside The Greenhouse in western Belmont County.
Bridgeport had won 20 straight outings and reached as high as No.3 in the state’s Division IV poll before dropping a last-second, 46-44, decision to Frontier in the Wheeling Hospital OVAC Class 2A championship game late Saturday night.
“I was a little worried about how we would come out and react,” Bridgeport coach Rob Zitzelsberger said. “We shot the ball (Monday) and that was the key. When we shoot the ball and get teams running with us, we’re pretty effective.
“We played really good defense until there at the end, but I’m pleased. We started out a little slow, but then we picked it up.”
After spotting Barnesville a 4-0 lead, Bridgeport went on a 21-4 tear to lead 21-8 after one.
“We came out ready to play, but halfway through the first quarter it seemed like we just stopped … slowed down and you can’t do that against a team like Bridgeport.”
After hitting their first two shots from the floor, the Shamrocks went cold as they misfired on their next 10 attempts.
“It was like someone opened the door and let a big rush of cold air in,” Carpenter said of his team’s ice-cold shooting as they were 16-for-57 overall and scored more than eight points in a quarter just once.
“Our second season starts Thursday and we can’t afford to take plays off like we did tonight,” he said of the Shamrocks’ date with Ridgewood in a Division III sectional tournament game at Cambridge High School.
Spearheading the Bridgeport attack was sophomore Caitlyn Kroll and senior Nicole Smolenak with nine and eight points, respectively, in the opening period. Smolenak knocked down a pair of 3-pointers, one from the right corner and the other from the left wing, to put the Bulldogs ahead for good at 6-4.
Neither team could do much in the second as they combined on 6 of 30 shots from the floor.
However, Bridgeport senior Maclaine Murad, who joined Smolenak as a member of the Bridgeport 1,000-point club Saturday, drilled a pair of long-distance buckets to give Bridgeport a 32-14 advantage at the half.
Kroll and Murad did all the damage in the third when Bridgeport outscored the Shamrocks 14-8 to build a 46-22 lead. Kroll scored nine and Murad the other five.
“Our big three led us again and we expect that,” Zitzelsberger said of Kroll, Murad and Smolenak. “I sensed they wanted to come out and make up for that loss, and they did.”
The trio combined for 54 of the 65 points, with Kroll leading the way with a game-best 25. Murad finished with 17 and Smolenak a dozen.
Kroll and Smolenak each grabbed seven rebounds, while Kroll charted half-a-dozen steals and handed out four assists. Smolenak added five assists and a trio of steals, while Murad had five boards and four helpers.
Shayla Markovich paced Barnesville with eight points and seven rebounds as the Shamrocks held a slim, 42-39, edge off the glass. Miranda Plumly and Sydney Ralston each scored six points.
The Shamrocks had 20 turnovers, 11 more than Bridgeport. Of those 20, 15 were unforced.
The Bulldogs begin Division IV sectional tournament action Wednesday at Uhrichsville against Beallsville inside Claymont High School. The tip is set for 6 p.m. Meanwhile, Barnesville begins Division III sectional action Thursday at Cambridge High School against Ridgewood at 7 p.m