Madonna boys never gave up

WEIRTON — Down by 14 points with five minutes left in Thursday’s game, the Madonna boys basketball team cut the lead to six at the three-minute mark.

Like one would expect a state-ranked team to do, No. 7 Morgantown Trinity closed out the game with a run of its own to go home with an 80-68 victory inside the Dubie Dome.

Madonna (3-7) had lost to the Trinity Christian Warriors by more than 20 points in December at the Undo’s Classic in Wheeling. It kept the pressure on Thursday, and while it never led in the game, it kept within striking distance, but couldn’t get the key basket when it needed it.

Coach Chris Blair’s club had five players in double figures for the first time this season, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the difficulty it had with big Daniel Woods in the paint. The Warriors’ husky 6-5 junior center pretty much scored at will when his teammates got the ball in to him and he finished with 30 points.

“We were surrounding him and wanted to have a body on him,” Blair said. “I thought we had good position on him, but they found him and he finished. He’s a tough matchup for us, and he hurt us today.”

The Warriors started the fourth quarter with a 60-48 lead. When Briston Bennett, who finished with 15 points, scored on two consecutive possessions, the Blue Dons were down 68-54 with 5:02 left in the game.

Blair got a timeout and knew his club, which had hustled and played hard the whole game, wasn’t ready to fold just yet. Sophomore Evan Boniti, who came off the bench to score 10 points, got the run going with a jumper.

Gavin Dietrich, who finished with 11 points, hit the second of two foul shots. After Woods sank a free throw, Dietrich knocked down his second 3-pointer of the game followed by Boniti’s second three. All of a sudden, the Blue Dons were six down at 69-63 with 3:17 left.

At this point, it was Trinity coach Don Fowkes getting the timeout, and it paid dividends as the Warriors got the ball in to Woods. While he wasn’t able to get a field goal, he cashed in 3-of-4 from the foul line to take the heat off.

“Trinity held onto the ball and made some big plays there at the end that we didn’t make. And, made their foul shots,” Blair said. “I thought we played hard and it was a great game. One thing I liked was our scoring. It was the first time all year we had five guys in double figures. I told the guys we have to build off that and do it consistently.”

Madonna senior Tony Sellitti swished a 3 from the right corner to cut the lead to 72-65 at the 2:16 mark, but the Warriors made four straight from the foul line to stretch the lead back to 10 at 76-66.

Dom Mazur’s 15-footer from the right base line with 1:12 left was the final Madonna score as Trinity got two more foul shots from Caleb Jenkins and a field goal by senior Jacob Martin in the final minute to close out the game.

“You come into this gym and see the state championship banner and coach Blair over there,” he said. “He’s a heck of a coach. Earlier in the season, he had a young team that was struggling a little bit, but they really hustled tonight.

“To come in here without probably our star player, Joe Zini, who is hurt, and win tonight I think it is pretty special for our ball club.”

Woods scored 24 of his 30 points in the second half. The Warriors were deadly from behind the arc in the first half, making 7 of 13, but only shot two threes in the entire second half, with neither of them hitting the mark as they continually went to the big guy inside.

The Blue Dons were led by the duo of Sellitti and freshman Lucky Pulice each with 16 points. Dietrich scored 11 and Boniti and Mazur each contributed 10.

“We played our hearts out,” said Pulice, who scored most of his points in the paint. “We followed the game plan. They just hit some shots early and they made a lot of free throws. Our game plan was to press them and slow the game down and force some turnovers. We did that better in the second half and brought the game closer.”

The game was the first of a busy weekend for the Blue Dons. They return to the Dubie Dome tonight to face Steubenville Catholic Central, a team they defeated in their first outing of the season. Then they travel to Bridgeport for a return match with the Bulldogs, who beat the Dons in the Dome earlier in the season.

Game notes:

≤ The Warrior reserves downed Madonna 51-30 in the preliminary game. Mark Spruill scored 11 and Caleb Rice 10 for the Warrior jayvees while A.J. Mitchell led the Blue Dons with 11 points.

≤ Fowkes, whose club now is 8-2, said his team has become known as the Road Warriors because they have played nine of those 10 games on the road. They return home Saturday for a big game with 10th-ranked Parkersburg Catholic.

Trinity Christian 80, Madonna 68

Trinity 23-12-25-20 — 80

Madonna 18-8-22-20 — 68

TRINITY (8-2): Kellar 1 10-10 13; Bennett 6 0-0 15; Alderman 2 0-0 5; Robertson 3 2-2 10; Martin 2 1-1 5; Moats 1 0-0 2; Woods 12 6-10 30. TOTALS: 27 19-23 80. 3-pointers: 7 (Bennett 3, Robertson 2, Kellar, Alderman); Rebounds: 26 (Woods 7); Turnovers: 17.

MADONNA (3-7): Lenhart 1 0-0 2; Dietrich 3 3-4 11; Gurrera 0 1-2 1; V. Pulice 1 0-0 2; Boniti 4 0-0 10; Sellitti 3 8-10 16; L. Pulice 6 4-7 16; Mazur 5 0-0 10. TOTALS: 23 16-23 68. 3-pointers: 6 (Dietrich 2, Boniti 2, Sellitti 2); Rebounds: 21 (Sellitti 8); Turnovers: 11.