Madonna Girls Into Title Game
WHEELING — It took Weirton Madonna’s girls’ basketball team four games to really get a feel for things early in the 2017-18 season.
Friday afternoon it took Coach Rodney Boniti’s squad another quarter to figure out the large court at Wheeling Jesuit University, but once the Blue Dons did, it was smooth sailing over Charleston Catholic.
Junior Andrea Alimario scored a game-high 14 points and senior Kasey Canei added nine points and helped Madonna to a huge rebounding advantage with 13 caroms as the Dons overcame a shaky start to post a 43-29 victory over Charleston Catholic in the semifinals of the Undo’s Tournament.
The victory evens Weirton Madonna’s record out at 4-4 after starting the season with three consecutive losses. Boniti’s crew will battle either powerful Wheeling Central at 7 p.m. tonight.
“We played five West Virginia-ranked teams right off the bat and started the season 0-3,” Boniti said. “But we played well enough to win a few of them, losing in the last minute three times.
“I think the biggest difference is that the girls are figuring out how to finish. And while our schedule was tough early on, I really believe that it has helped us learn how to compete.”
The Dons trailed 4-1 and 6-2 midway through the opening period before a hoop from freshman Hannah Rahin gave the Fighting Irish (2-4) an 8-6 upperhand heading into the second period.
That is where Madonna caught a little fire, while Charleston Catholic struggled mightily from the field. Canei led a 10-0 charge with five tallies before the only Irish points of the quarter came at the 1:20 mark on an Olivia Corbett basket. When the dust had cleared it was a 13-2 second quarter run and a 19-10 Blue Dons lead at the break.
“So far it seems like we have one quarter where we are really flat every game, and (Friday) it was the first quarter,” Boniti said. “But I attribute some of that to the fact that this is actually the first time this year we have played on a 94-foot court.
“Once the girls realized all of our sets and started running them and settling down we were fine.”
Charleston Catholic scored the initial two points of the second half, but went cold again as Weirton Madonna ripped off nine of the next 11 points, with five different players combining on the run that pushed the score to 28-14. The Dons eventually took a 13-point cushion, 33-20, into the final eight minutes of play.
Madonna all but put things away in the first two-and-a-half minutes of the fourth, scoring six points to start the quarter and take a 39-20 lead.
“I told the girls before the game that we had no film or no scouting of them, but during warmups we noticed they had two girls with a little size,” Boniti said. “So we knew we wanted to take the ball to the bucket and even if we couldn’t finish on the first try get some putbacks.
“We played very well inside, which led to some second-chance points and a nice rebounding margin.”
While the Blue Dons turned the ball over five times more than Charleston Catholic (22-17), they grabbed an impressive 33-11 edge off the glass.
Rahin was the Fighting Irish’s only double-figure scorer with 10 points.