BELLAIRE - It was just 12 days ago that the Madonna Blue Dons were playing for the West Virginia Class A State Football Championship.
With just seven practices and nary a scrimmage under their belt, the Blue Dons made their 2012-13 basketball debut Wednesday evening inside the 'Greenhouse' at St. John Central.
Despite shooting the ball poorly, turning the ball over, commiting a high number of personal fouls, the Blue Dons headed home with a relatively easy 51-25 victory against the struggling Irish, who have lost three straight since beating Bellaire in the opener.
"Our guys are just getting their basketball legs about them," said acting Blue Dons' head coach Mike Hagg, who is filling in for George Vargo, who sat out the first of two games because of a suspension issued by the WVSSAC after the state tournament in March. "Our shooting and our overall team chemistry aren't where they need to be."
Madonna also began basketball life with senior leader Ross Comis, who is out for an extended period of time due to an injury suffered in the state title game.
"We're finding our way," Hagg said. "Ross is our leader and the glue that pulls us together, so without him, we're young out there and it's going to be a work in progress. We'll have to adjust because it's growing process."
The Blue Dons asserted themselves on the boards early, especially the offensive end where after sometimes as many as five chances, they cashed in. The Blue Dons scored 18 of the game's first 20 points and were never seriously challenged.
"We've struggled with rebounding the last two games," said St. John head coach Kevin Lahna. "We've got 10 days off now before we play Bellaire and we're going to get back to basics of shooting the basketball and boxing out. I thought we played defense semi-hard tonight. I don't think we got Madonna's best shot and we could have played with them a little better than we did."
The Irish, who were routed by Bishop Donahue on Tuesday, were within 13 in the middle of the second quarter, but Madonna's Nate Guio stopped the bleeding with back-to-back buckets and allowed the Dons to push their lead to 30-11 at the half.
"We just don't have the firepower to be able to catch up when we dig ourselves a big hole," Lahna said. "Offensively, we're just not too good right now. We're not a very good shooting team, especially from the outside. I think we have it in our head that we're going to make shots because we made some (against Bellaire) early in the season. We're not very disciplined that way."
In the first half, Madonna outrebounded St. John, 40-6.
"We've got good size and we should be able to rebound well," Hagg said. "Most of those rebounds, though, were on our own misses."
Madonna outscored St. John, 11-9 in the third despite Kyle Imer scoring all the Irish's points on bonus baskets.
Sophomore James Carnes - who transferred from Weir High - led all scorers in the game with 15 points. He also completed the double-double with a like number of rebounds. Guio also had a double-double with 14 rebounds to complement his 12 points.
Will Bowser had just four points, but ripped down 12 rebounds.
Imer's production led the Irish. Senior D.J. Shoemaker scored six in top support.
Madonna 51, St. John 25
MADONNA: Guio 6, 0-0 12; Antinone 0, 0-0 0; Jeter 0, 0-0 0; Ewusiak 4, 0-0 8; Retton 2, 0-2 4; Bowser 1, 2-2 4; Shreve 1, 0-0 2; Higgins 0, 0-0 0; Carnes 7, 0-0 15; Stakis 1, 2-2 4; Martin 1, 0-0 2; Totals: 23, 4-6 51.
ST. JOHN: Francis 1, 2-3 4; Shoemaker 1, 4-10 6; Holubeck 0, 0-0 0; Ford 0, 0-0 0; Alvey 1, 0-3 0; Palmer 0, 0-0 0; Clemons 0, 0-0 0; Bossell 1, 0-0 2; Melko 1, 0-2 2; Imer 3, 0-0 9; Totals: 8, 6-18 25.
Three-Point Goals: M - Carnes. SJC - Imer (3).