Madonna defeats Riders

WEIRTON – Things were looking good for Weir High in Friday’s clash with city rival Madonna after a Chris Wood deuce moved the Red Riders to within three (31-28) early in the second half.

The experienced Blue Dons then regrouped, outscored the hosts 21-4 during the rest of the stanza and coasted to a 69-45 victory before a large and vocal crowd at the Carl Hamill Fieldhouse.

Josh Martin, Madonna’s 7-foot senior, started the decisive run when he scored from the paint. Tyler Ewusiak followed with a conventional three point play (his hoop coming in transition off a nifty Ross Comis assist). Two Kamarri Washington free throw makes sliced the margin to six before George Vargo’s now 3-1 club went on a 12-0 scoring burst.

Comis got a bucket in transition, drawing a foul in the process to get three the old fashion way. He then drained two foul shots. Dominick Silvestri cashed in twice from the line and Tavon Jeter drilled a triple. Will Bower added another hoop in transition to make it 48-30 Madonna.

The Dons, thanks to two additional Comis free tosses, were ahead 52-32 heading into the final period.

“Our defensive pressure helped us tonight,” Vargo said. “We used the full court press early then changed to a half court zone. Martin and Tyler (Ewusiak) controlled the boards for us when we changed defenses and we were able to get guys out in transition. The combination of transition and foul shots really helped us.”

The Dons shot 21 free throws in the second half, knocking down 17. For the game, Madonna was 28 of 43 from the stripe. The full court press produced nine Weir turnovers in the opening quarter. Vargo’s club hauled down 52 rebounds compared to 29 for Weir.

“We cut it to three then all of a sudden our decision making wasn’t what it needed to be,” Weir’s Mike Granato stated. “Tonight was another case where we had a lot of opportunities but missed way too many shots.

“We have to do a better job of running of offense. When we do, we have to make our shots. In the third quarter, we made some steals, made our layups and the kids fed off the emotion of our crowd. The next thing you know, we had three guys with four fouls and were in trouble. It’s tough to overcome that when you are not deep.”

There were 48 fouls called in the game, which also featured a combined 42 turnovers.

Madonna used a 13-0 run to grab a 16-5 first quarter lead. The Riders, powered by five Jonathan West points, closed the gap to six (28-22) late in the second. George Stakias connected from behind the arc to put the Dons up 31-22 at the break.

Comis scored 20 to lead Madonna, which visits Bridgeport today (the junior varsity game tips at 5 p.m.). A dozen of his points came from the line. Jeter came off the bench to score nine. Will Bowser hauled down 12 rebounds for the winners and Martin added 11 to go along with his four blocks.

“Anytime you beat Weir, it’s a good win,” Vargo added. “They’re struggling a little right now but I know they’re rebound.”

Wood paced the 0-4 Riders with 15. Michael Curtis contributed eight. Mitch Viakley picked off 10 rebounds before fouling out.

“We’re improving every game,” Granato noted. “You can’t question our effort. You might question our youth a little because that youth (Weir has just three seniors on its roster) because that youth sometimes leads to poor decision making. We had our share of wide open looks but we didn’t knock them down. And, we missed a ton of layups. We have to keep plugging.”

The Riders will host Indian Creek Thursday. The Weirton city championship will be on the line when the Blue Dons host Weir on Jan. 17.