Steubenville Stops Rival Weir Girls
STEUBENVILLE — Steubenville girls’ basketball coach Jeff Lombardo was concerned that his team had trouble finishing in its first two games of the season, both ending in defeat.
Thursday night, however, his club out-scored Weir by five points in the fourth quarter and pocketed its first win, 47-38, inside the Crimson Center.
The final nine-point spread was the largest lead by either team, as the girls battled each other on even terms until Big Red opened the fourth quarter with an 8-3 run. The Red Riders closed the gap back to five with 3:23 left, but Lombardo got two field goals from sophomore Makayla Abram in the final 1:33 to put the game away.
“Our problem the first two games was we didn’t finish the games in the fourth quarter,” Lombardo said. “We’re trying to put four quarters together. (Thursday), we had a really bad second quarter. It also has a little bit to do with the girls having higher expectations when we started. Now, they have the monkey off their backs, so to speak, and we can relax more. It didn’t hurt that we were playing on our home floor.”
It was the season debut for the Red Riders, and Coach Rick Stead felt there were some natural first-game jitters. He also felt his team was a little gassed in the final quarter and was unable to make a late run.
“It’s tough to play a team where it is their third game and our first,” Stead said. “I thought our girls gave a good effort. This is the best we’ve played against a Big Red team in the last several years. I’m proud of what they did, but we made some mistakes in key spots. I tried to sub the girls in and out in the second half, but I think we got tired and got sloppy throwing the ball around.
“I have to give credit to the two girls that played post for Big Red (Madison Fields and Abram). They did a good job. We don’t have a lot of size, so we told the girls that whoever was on the back side when one of those girls got the ball inside should drop down low and close them out. They got good position, though, and there was nothing we could do about it.”
Fields, a junior, and Abram, a sophomore, scored 43 of Big Red’s 47 points. They also captured half of their team’s 24 rebounds. Fields finished with 22 points and five rebounds, while Abram scored 21 with seven caroms.
“I know what I’m going to get from Madison every single time,” Lombardo said. “When you get her the ball on the blocks, she’s going to finish. It is just a matter of getting the ball to her in the right spot. She struggled from the free-throw line on Monday but, man, she spent a lot of time at the line in practice, and (this time) she was 6 of 8.
“Makayla can score a lot of different ways. She was getting her buckets but creating some for the others. She scored 21 points and still hasn’t played her best game. She struggled with some turnovers. She had seven rebounds, but we’d like to get that number into double figures.”
Weir never had the lead. After trailing 16-11 in the first quarter, it came back to out-score Big Red, 10-6, in the second and was down by only one at the half (22-21). With Fields nailing a layup and Abram netting a free throw and goal, Big Red opened the second half with a 27-21 lead.
“Weir High gave us a good ballgame, and I knew they would,” Lombardo said. “I know a lot of those girls from playing against them in the fall basketball league. They’re well-coached and just getting better and better, so I knew we were in for a dogfight.”
Junior Sophia Mikula, who is the leading scorer returning from a year ago, got into some early foul trouble and didn’t score in the first half. She drained a jumper to stop the Big Red run, though, and senior Trezur Elmore-Sartor got a neat pass from senior Julia Gianni and turned it into a field goal to suddenly bring the Red Riders back to within two points at 27-25.
Big Red went on to lead 33-29 going into the fourth when Fields scored six points and Abram tallied eight, which were all of Big Red’s points, to get the win.
The Red Riders had a balanced scoring attack, with senior Gia Fuscardo leading the way with nine points. Mikula and Julia Gianni each scored eight, and sophomore Isabella Aperfine checked in with seven.
“Being that this was Weir’s first game, it was to our advantage,” Lombardo said. “It’s going to be a heck of a game when we have to go to Weirton in January.”