McCort Heats Up in St. C. Win
ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Ryan McCort scored a career-high 24 points as St. Clairsville debuted with a 68-61 boys basketball victory over visiting Barnesville Friday night on John Jenkins Court.
McCort, a 6-1 sharpshooting junior, netted a dozen points in each half and drew praise from Red Devils’ head coach Ryan Clifford.
“No one was looking more forward to this game than Ryan was. He knew it was his turn,” Clifford said of McCort who saw quality minutes last season. “We told the kids that someone is going to have to step up offensively, and tonight it was Ryan.
“He’s a basketball kid that comes from a basketball family.”
After playing to a 12-all stalemate in the first quarter, McCort had eight points in the decisive second quarter as St. Clairsville took a 30-25 lead into the lockerroom at halftime. His free throw with 6:15 on the clock gave the Red Devils the lead for good at 16-15.
However, the Shamrocks hung tough despite seven turnovers in the second stanza.
“I’m proud of my kids. I really am,” first-year Barnesville head coach Johnny Hines said. “It wasn’t the crazy atmosphere you expect at St. Clairsville due to COVID restrictions, but I thought we played well for our first time out. We hadn’t scrimmaged anyone and it showed because we didn’t adapt to their pressure early on. You can’t simulate speed in practice but I thought we handled it pretty well in the second half.”
McCort recorded seven points in the third quarter and Drew Sefsick added six of his eight as the hosts held a 48-44 margin entering the fourth quarter. Evan Hudson kept Barnesville close with eight of his 11 points coming in the third.
A 10-3 spurt to start the fourth quarter allowed the Red Devils to put some distance between themselves and the Shamrocks at 58-47, but the visitors wouldn’t fold and sliced the deficit to five on a couple of occasions late, but wouldn’t get any closer.
McCort, Saul Crist and Colin Oberdick all meshed a pair of free throws down the stretch to seal the deal.
In addition to McCort’s career-best, senior Will Balgo knocked down 17 and Oberdick finished with 11.
“Colin is another of those guys that came off the bench last year,” Clifford noted. “He’s playing a huge role for us this year. All we ask him to do is handle the ball and guard the other team’s top guard. He gets into double figures tonight. You couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Barnesville had four players score 11 points apiece and another with 10.
“That’s the way it’s going to have to be,” Hines said. “We lost 30 points a game in (graduate) Luke Powell. One player isn’t going to do it all by himself this season. we have to share the ball and I thought we did a good job of that tonight.”
Jake Edwards, Colton Hines and Jeremy Hunkler joined Hudson with an 11-spot. Novah Pavell added 10 off the bench.
St. Clairsville won the battle of the boards, 30-29, as Avery Henry and Sefsick had eight each. Pavell grabbed eight for Barnesville.
The Red Devils turned the ball over just seven times. The Shamrocks doubled that.
“I’m just glad we got to finally play a game,” Clifford said. “Credit has to go to a lot of people at our school. We stayed the course and this is what we wanted to do … play basketball.
“Things didn’t go real well for us in the preseason. I was quarantined for two weeks and my assistant coaches ran practice. We may have had a few hiccups on offense early, but we’ll live with that.”
Both teams are at home Tuesday as Bellaire visits Barnesville and Union Local comes to St. Clairsville.