Red Devils Handle Crusaders

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — It was St. Clairsville’s offense that shot it out of the chute successfully Tuesday night. But it was the Red Devils’ defense that endured for 32 minutes.

St. Clairsville held Steubenville Catholic to single-digit points in the first and third quarters and that, along with a game-high 22 points from Kaden Blomquist, were the catalysts for a 57-42 boys’ basketball triumph on John Jenkins Court.

“We played really well, maybe as well as we’ve played defensively,” said Red Devils assistant coach Ryan Clifford, filling in for head coach Kim Clifford as he attended to a family matter.

“I saw (Steubenville Catholic) play and they can really score. We locked them down. They have two really good players but I thought they really had to work hard for every shot they took.”

Steubenville Catholic still qualified for next week’s Wheeling Hospital OVAC Championships in Class 2A with an 11-7 mark, but coach Chris Tarquinio knows it will take a better performance in order to claim the crown.

“We just couldn’t get into a flow offensively,” he said. “That’s a credit to St. Clairsville. St. Clairsville is a very good team. They’re a lot better than that .500 record they have. That showed.”

The Red Devils improved to 10-8, but failed to make the OVAC 4A tournament field. Still, Clifford was proud of his team for what it had done prior to Tuesday night, and especially for what it did against the Crusaders.

“We played really well,” he said. “They played with energy and gave energy early.”

The game, for all intents and purposes, was won during its opening moments as St. Clairsville opened on a 7-0 run. The lead swelled to 15-5 behind Blomquist, who scored 10 first-quarter points.

Josh Costello scored four straight points midway the second quarter to pull the Crusaders to within four, 20-16, but the Red Devils, as they seemed to do all night, got big shots, this time from Blomquist and Matt Busby (15 points), to push their advantage back to nine, 26-17.

“We didn’t play offensively, but that’s a credit to their defense,” Tarquinio said. “They did a couple of things out front and got us behind the 8-ball a little bit. We were still in the game at halftime.”

That’s true. But a 10-2 run to end the third quarter by St. Clairsville, coupled with SCC’s nine-point quarter, signaled the end for the Crusaders.

“We stressed at halftime that, for whatever reason, we’d struggled in the third quarter,” Clifford said. “We talked about not letting that happen again. When you play defense the way we did, whether we struggled on offense or not, it was negated by the effort we gave on defense. We didn’t let them breathe so they could get back in the game.”

AJ Connor paced the Crusaders with 15 points, while Donnie Vandeborne had 13.

“They came out more aggressive at the start of the second half and took us out of our game,” Tarquinio said. “They deserved to win.”