Buckeye Local Prevails Panthers Prevail At BuzzerAt Buzzer

CONNORVILLE — Two days removed from stunning Steubenville in overtime inside the Crimson Center, the Buckeye Local girls’ basketball team did it again on its home court to advance to the Class 4A title game of the 11th Annual Wheeling Hospital OVAC Girls Basketball Tournament at Ohio University Eastern on Saturday against No. 1 seed Cambridge.

After Big Red (8-11) led most of the game, Alaire Destifanes’ shot as the clock hit zeros got nothing but net to lift the Panthers to a 50-48 victory and send the Buckeye Local High School gym into a wild frenzy.

“I wanted to make that shot for my teammates,” Destifanes said. “We’ve gotten so close the last few years, and we are ready to take the next step.”

Destifanes finished with 13 points in the game.

“It’s unbelievable,” Buckeye Local coach Tom Figurski said. “Big Red led most of the game. We knew we were going to get their best after Saturday. For playing five games in eight days, I couldn’t ask for any more from this crew.

“They play with a lot of heart. They never quit. They never give up. That is Buckeye Local basketball.”

Buckeye Local will play in its second OVAC title game in three years, looking for the school’s first conference championship in 26 years.

“It means a lot to be in the championship,” Figurski said. “We tell the girls at the beginning of the year that the last OVAC title we won was in 1992, so our motto is ‘no more 1992.’ We’ve got a chance to go out there and show what we are made of on Saturday. This opportunity only knocks so many times. We’re back in the OVAC title game and that is where we want to be.”

Steubenville led by six at halftime and three going to the fourth quarter, leading by as many as many as four late in the contest.

“It’s tough,” Steubenville coach Jeff Lombardo said. “We told the girls before the game all we could ask of them is to go out there and play as hard as they can. I love our kids and they did that. They competed hard after a tough loss on Saturday. For the most part we were in control for most of the game.

“Emily (Holzopfel) is really hard to stop. We wanted to make someone else beat us and give Buckeye Local credit, they had a couple of girls step up at the end and make big shots.”

Holzopfel — who finished with a double-double leading Buckeye Local with game-highs in points (23), rebounds (10) and assists (four) — tied the game at 46-46 with her second 3-pointer of the tilt with just under a minute to play. Big Red regained the lead with a pair of free throws from Madison Fields with 48 seconds to go, before Angelina Piergallini tied the game again at 48-48 eight seconds later.

Piergallini and Fields each missed potential go ahead shots for their respective clubs in the final 30 seconds, before Destifanes got the ball with just enough time and space to let the game-winner go and get swarmed by her teammates and the Panthers student section when it went in.

“Angelina hit a big shot right before (the winner),” Figurski said. “Alaire has hit some big shots before. She had a game-winner last year against Edison. The thing is she is used to it and that caliber of a player.”

Big Red will play against No. 4 seed St. Clairsville, who fell to No. 1 seeded Cambridge, on Thursday.

“We wanted to give ourselves a chance to get to the championship,” Lombardo said. “We were really close to taking it to the next step. I really feel for the girls.

“This is one of those games where you are going to sit back and question everything that you did.”

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