Central defeats Bears

NEW MANCHESTER – Steubenville Catholic Central turned up the intensity in the second half and coasted to a 64-39 win, their eighth of the season, last night over home standing Oak Glen.

The Crusaders were never behind in the game after Oak Glen junior, Cody Howell, who led all scorers, got the first goal at the start of the contest.

The Golden Bears, who were losing their seventh game in eight starts, hung around, though, in the first half and were behind by six at the intermission, 24-18.

“At halftime, we discussed with the kids about being a little more patient and a lot more aggressive at attacking the basket,” said Crusader coach, Sean Tucker, whose team has a lone loss in nine games. “We were attacking the basket in the first half, but we’d turn around and throw the ball back outside. We needed to finish when we were inside.”

A good example of that was junior Ryan Fletcher and senior Zach Harrington, who led the Crusader scoring with 17 and 16 points respectively. Fletcher made 10 of his 17 points in the second half and Harrington, who went to the basket repeatedly, scored 14 of his 16.

On the other side, Oak Glen committed 23 turnovers in the game and had only five players in the scoring column. Howell scored a game high 21 points or more than half of the team total.

It was the second meeting between the two teams and Oak Glen coach, Dave Smith, said last night’s game was very similar to the first won by Central, 55-36 on Dec. 18.

“We don’t handle the ball well,” Smith admitted. “We turn the ball over way too much. Our ball handling with the exception of Matthew McLaughlin, is not very good and that’s at all positions. It ends up being our downfall because, in turn, we don’t get shots.

“We could shoot 50 percent from the field, which we were probably close to that tonight (16 of 35), and still lose because we just don’t get enough shots.”

The Crusaders were on fire in the second half and finished with a red hot 56 percent from the floor (23 of 41).

Tucker said he emphasizes to his players that they are a team.

“Every game its going to be a different character,” Tucker explained. “That’s the great thing about our team. We have to continue to teach and preach team in our locker room, in practices and on the floor during games because we have a great group of kids and every single one of them brings a lot of good things to the table.

“And every night we’re going to have a lot of good kids bringing a lot of good things to the table because we can be that good if every kid brings something to the table. There will be days when somebody is going to be down, but somebody else picks them up.

“If we avoid all the distractions that may be out there, and these kids continue to rely on one another like they’ve been doing, We’re going to be very, very successful. We’re an 8-1 ball club and very easily could be 9-0, and we’ve yet to peak.”

In addition to scoring, Harrington pulled down six rebounds and pilfered the ball from the Golden Bears a couple of times. The Crusaders had at least 10 steals with junior Michael Manfresca getting three of them.

For Oak Glen, Howell grabbed eight rebounds and blocked three shots.

“Cody has been a leader, especially offensively for us,” Smith said. “He probably could score 30 points if he’d do some things like sitting low and catching the ball and doing things right. He’s capable of doing that for us. But I can’t fault him. He plays with a lot of effort and I keep him on the floor all the time, and he works hard, but he has letdowns just like the other ones. It is frustrating to me, but we’re making progress.”

McLaughlin, the Oak Glen senior point guard, backed up Howell with 11 points.

Both teams jump right back into action tonight. Central meets Big Red in the annual city battle at the Crimson Center in downtown Steubenville.

Oak Glen hosts Madonna as part of the school’s fourth annual Winter Sports Spectacular. There is no reserve game, but the Oak Glen girls basketball team plays the Madonna girls in the 6 p.m. opener with the varsity boys game following at approximately 7:30 p.m.