Strong second half leads Central past Madonna, 62-45

LOOKING TO PASS — Catholic Centra’sl Christine Dombrowski looks for a teammate to pass to with Madonna’s Jazzy Melayk chasing close behind during the fourth quarter of Monday’s matchup at Madonna. (Photo by Andrew Grimm)

WEIRTON — Catholic Central used another strong second half performance to earn a 62-45 girls basketball victory over Madonna Monday on the Joanna Bernabei-McNamee Court inside the Bill Barrett Gymnasium.

The Crusaders, now 5-1, were down 17-12 after the first period but rallied behind nine points from Tia Taglione to lead 31-29 at the break. Central then outscored the Blue Dons 31-16 in the second half to secure the win.

“I’m really proud of how our girls played as a team tonight, and with each game, I can see improvement,” said Central coach Jess Looman. “We talk all the time that we don’t want to be a second-half team, but for the second straight game, we really stepped up our effort during the final two quarters.

“Our defensive intensity was much better in the second half and, offensively, I thought we moved the ball much better. We knew coming in that Madonna would be ready for us. It’s always a tight, hard-fought game when we play them. I think our defense really made a difference, particularly in the fourth quarter when we went from our 1-3-1 zone to our 3-2.”

Junior standout Andrea Alimario was red-hot in the opening period, scoring nine of Madonna’s 17 points. Central rallied to take the lead midway through the second on back-to-back steals and hoops by Taglione. Junior Christine Dombrowski scored four points during the stanza to spark the Crusaders.

Dombrowski and Taglione combined for 11 third quarter points as Central expanded its lead to 49-40.

“Catholic Central’s coach adjusted well to what we were doing in the first half,” first-year Madonna coach Rodney Boniti said. “She changed up the defense a couple of times and that threw out of rhythm. Everyone knows defense creates offense and Central did that tonight.

“They got some hard rebounds and kick-outs and capitalized on their opportunities. Where we really got beat up tonight and I was surprised was on the boards. Central really crashed the boards, attacked on second chance opportunities and finished well.”

Taglione led all scorers with 22 points while Dombrowski added 14. Senior post Grace Godich added 10.

“Everyone played well together tonight and that’s what we have to do in order to be successful,” Taglione said. “This is a tough place to play but we kept our composure and played well as a team.

“We came out strong in the second half and played closer to our potential. We’re still working to put together four good quarters but it was great to see us play so strong in the second half.”

“Offensively, our team really does a good job of sharing the ball and not being selfish,” Dombrowski said. “I think that was the key to our offensive success tonight.

“We played hard from the start and we really worked together as a team. I think the defensive change we made in the second quarter really helped us.”

Madonna, according to Looman, is difficult to defend because it has so many scoring threats.

“Alimario, (Kasey) Canei, (Jazzy) Melnyk and (Gia) Riccadonna all are solid offensive players,” the Central coach said. “Our focus coming in was to be aggressive defensively, make them work hard for their shots and try to keep them off balance by giving them different defensive looks.

“We asked our post players to be physical tonight and they were. I was really proud of the way Grace (Godich), Brantley (Turnage) and Hannah (Olszewski) played.”

Alimario finished with 15 to pace Madonna. Riccadonna contributed 10 and Melnyk eight.

“I’m as happy as you can be after losing three games,” Boniti said. “We lost to two greats programs (Valley and Southern Local) by four points each and it was disappointing that the second half got away from us tonight. I can’t fault the energy of our players or their drive. Hopefully we’ll get our point guard healthy (Madonna starter Rachel Boniti missed the game with an injury) and get a little rhythm.

“We’re trying to develop the next player up motto that good programs have. We had to put a little inexperience at the point tonight and make a couple of adjustments. Again, it’s a learning process. Steubenville Central knows how to win and how to finish. When you improve your program like they have in the last few years, you learn how to win and how to finish.”

Central returns to action Wednesday with a home game against Toronto.

“This was a good win for us and we’ll enjoy it tonight,” Looman said. “We need to have a great practice on Tuesday and get ready for another rivalry game.”

Madonna will visit city rival Weir High Thursday.

“We’re scheduled to play five games in the first eight days of the season,” Boniti said. “We need a couple of days back in the gym to work on things and get some things clicking.”

Game notes:

Central grabbed a 42-15 victory in the junior varsity contest. Katelynn Dorsey paced the Crusaders with 13 points and Morgan Green added eight. Marianna Martinez netted eight for the Dons.

Catholic Central 62, Madonna 45

Central 12-19-18-13 — 62

Madonna 17- 12-11-5 — 45

CENTRAL (5-1): Zatta 2 2-4 6; Turnage 2 1-1 5; Dombrowski 7 0-0 14; Taglione 9 2-2 22; Godich 5 0-2 10; Oliver 1 2-4; Olszewski 0 1-2 1. TOTALS 26 8-15 62. 3-pointers: Taglione 2.

MADONNA (0-3): Riccadonna 4 2-2 10; Staffileno 0 4-6 4; Dowiak 0 1-2 1; Melnyk 3 1-2 8; Mascio 0 0-0 0; Martin 1 0-0 2; Alimario 6 2-2 15; Canei 2 1-4 5. TOTALS: 16 11-16 45. 3-pointers: Melnyk, Alimario.