MARTINS FERRY - Buckeye Local and Martins Ferry stood toe-to-toe Monday night like a pair of prized fighters for 32 minutes. When it was all said and done, the homestanding Purple Riders (4-11) used Tyrah King's late basket for a 56-54 victory over the Panthers (2-12).
"I think my girls grew up a little bit tonight," an ecstatic Martins Ferry head coach Lindsey Coyne said. "We could've very easily have folded there late, but we didn't. The girls fought and fought and I couldn't be any prouder."
Trailing by four with just over a minute left to play, Morgan Stalder, Martins Ferry's lone senior, knocked down a jumper from the left elbow to make it 54-52 in favor of the visiting Panthers.
Then, after a Buckeye Local turnover, Purple Riders' freshman Maylah Coleman picked up the loose ball and went coast-to-coast, kissing the ball off the glass and through the rim while being fouled to deadlock the game at 54 with 47.1 seconds on the clock. Her ensuing free throw was off the mark, but during the battle for the rebound, the ball went out of bounds off a Buckeye Local player with 45.2 remaining.
Coyne used her final timeout to setup her late-game strategy, and her team ran it to perfection.
The Purple Riders ate some precious seconds off the clock after the timeout, working it around the perimeter. However, some tenacious defense by the Panthers forced a jump-ball situation with 9.1 left.
Martins Ferry inbounded the ball to King and worked her way to the paint where her shot rolled over the front of the rim and through the net for a 56-54 with 6.5 showing. She was fouled on the play, but missed the free throw attempt.
Buckeye Local, which had already used its allotment of timeouts, pushed the ball up the floor, but failed to get off a shot before the final buzzer sounded.
"They did a nice job of running the clock down there at the end and they got the shot they wanted," Buckeye Local head coach Tom Figurski explained. "We really don't have the size to defend her when she gets the ball down that low. She took the ball up hard, made the shot and got fouled."
Coyne was pleased to see her young squad respond at crunch time.
"I told the girls the game of basketball is all about rallies," Coyne said. "When we went out 13-0, I told them Buckeye would come back, and they did."
Sparked by Becky Zeroski, who had half of her 22 points in the first period, Buckeye Local stormed back and actually took a 16-15 lead late in the opening eight minutes before King scored for a 17-16 edge.
"I told the girls that when they did, we needed to be the ones that got the loose balls and do all the little things right," Coyne added. "We had our mental mistakes at times, but we are still very young. I look at my coaches and ask 'why do we do some of those things' and they tell me, 'they're freshman and sophomores."
Martins Ferry led 29-26 at the half behind 10 points each by Coleman and King. Zeroski (14) and Lauren Swiger (10) combined for all but two of the Panthers' tallies as the game resembled a 2-on-2 affair for awhile.
Both teams scored 15 points in the third period, and Buckeye Local drew even at 44 on Carly Banal's bonus bomb from the top of the key. The lead see-sawed back and forth for the next three minutes before Zeroski gave the Panthers a 54-50 lead with two free throws at the 3:24 mark.
Figurski was proud of his group despite the loss.
"We were down 13-0 and came all the way back," he recalled. "These girls never give up. I'm so proud of them. They work so hard and have accepted for their roles.
"There will be a time when Buckeye will start winning these type of games. It might be a year or two, but that time will come. We've got East Liverpool at home Wednesday, so we'll go play another day."
Swiger finished with game scoring honors with 23, one more than Zeroski. Swiger also grabbed six rebounds and charted five steals. Becky Zeroski added five boards and a pair of steals, while Rachel Zeroski had four blocks, four steals and three assists off the bench.
Coleman led the Riders with 22, while King powered her way for 13 and Sydney Bridges added 10. Stalder finished with nine.
While the Panthers host the Potters Wednesday, the Purple Riders will host Union Local on Thursday.
Martins Ferry 56, Buckeye Local 54
Buckeye Local 16 10 15 13 - 54
Martins Ferry 17 12 15 12 - 56
BUCKEYE LOCAL (2-11): Fedorko 0 1-2 1; Leonard 1 0-0 3; Long 0 0-2 0; Swiger 8 7-9 23; B. Zeroski 7 4-4 22; R. Zeroski 0 0-0 0; Banal 2 0-0 5; Vince 0 0-0 0; Totals: 19-62 12-17 54. 3-pointers: B. Zeroski 3, Leonard.
MARTINS FERRY (4-14): Coleman 9 4-9 22; Monroe 0 0-0 0; Stalder 3 3-3 9; Bridges 4 2-3 10; King 5 3-8 13; Ray 0 0-0 0; Skvarka 1 0-0 2; Johnson 0 0-0 0; Totals: 22-49 12-23 56.