ST. CLAIRSVILLE – A first for Harrison County took place in Belmont County Saturday.
The No. 2 seeded Harrison Central girls basketball team used a stingy zone and went 13-for-16 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter to claim a 66-58 victory over No. 1 seed Steubenville at Ohio University-Eastern at the Wheeling Hospital OVAC Basketball Championships.
Claiming the Class 4A title was the first OVAC girls basketball crown in school history.
“This is great for us,” said Huskies coach Nick Yourkovich. “It’s real special. It’s a big accomplishment for us to get the first one. I told the girls out in the hallway that this is one nobody in Harrison County is going to forget.
“Being the first one, being that type of ballgame, and seeing the pure emotion on the girls’ faces when that clock hit triple zero, I’ll never going to forget.
“This is real special for me. I’m real thrilled for these girls who have been with us since the start. A big accomplishment for us.
“We made some big shots there toward the end. With under a minute left, Jesse Ledger made the three to put us up 10. I think that’s where everybody on our side, the bench and the fans included, sensed that it would be our time to hoist that trophy.”
Ledger hit her fifth, and final, trey for a 61-51 lead with 57.7 seconds left in the contest.
But, Big Red wasn’t done.
Hannah Masloski hit a bucket 10 seconds later and Mytia Barker had a steal and a basket 10 seconds after that and it was 61-55.
After a Steubenville timeout, Katie Ellzy was fouled and buried them both for a 63-55 cushion with 35 seconds to go. Dunfee then hit one of two freebies and Barker then canned a triple to make ti 64-58 with 14.7 unplayed.
Shianne Nameth netted two more free throws to close the scoring.
“First of all, I want to congratulate Harrison Central,” said Big Red mentor Phil Casnielli. “We were fortunate enough to win this last year, so we know the feelings they are having. Nick Yourkovich does a great job with that team.
“For our girls, we didn’t want to end this way. But, in the same sense, I’m an optimistic kind of person and I know that not every girl gets the opportunity win a championship at this level. At this point, to get to the championship game twice, and win one, and win 19 games, is a great accomplishment for our team.
“We know the season itsn’t done. We still have games to play, practices to hold and sectionals to play.”
Harrison Central’s Kara Dunfee led all-scorers with 19 points. Ledger collected 16, Ellzy 14 and Shianne Nameth 12.
“We didn’t play the way we wanted to. I thought that Dunfee hurt us more than anyone. We focused on Ellzy a lot and she did some damage, but Dunfee scoring 19 points, attacking the basket and making her foul shots hurt us.”
Barker paced Steubenville with 17 points. Emiley Masloski added 16, Lysiah Rice 12 and Taylor Young eight. Big Red was sans Abby Taylor, who went to the state choir concert.
Steubenville led 18-16 after one, 29-29 at the half and trailed 44-43 entering the final eight minutes.
“I thought we commited some silly fouls, get ourselves into foul trouble,” said Casinelli. “Maybe a reach here or a reach there too far away from the basket, got us into foul trouble individually, which changes the rotation for us.
“They (the Huskies) shot the ball well and responded well. Our girls didn’t give up.
“I was concered about theier zone because they’re long. If we shoot the ball better, the outcome might be different.”
Harrison Central was 6-for-9 from behind the arc, while Big Red was 6-for-19.
“Our threes weren’t easy,” said Casinelli. “Give credit to their defense.”
For Yourkovich, contesting the threes and limiting transition points were high on the priority list.
“The girls paid attention to their assignments (in the zone) after we lost Emiley and she got a couple of open looks (for three),” he said. “After that, we got to where we were supposed to be and kept them within striking distance until we could wear them down.
“We watched them on Monday and we knew they could shoot from out there. I tihnk the whole atmosphere got us away from where their shooters were. But, once we settled down and we reiterated it in a couple of timeouts, the girls got to where they were supposed to be.
“We know they are a fullcourt press team and grab the ball out of the net and go. We emphasized for the past week to take care of the basketball and sprint back on defense. Once they got a couple of early ones, I think the girls understood how fast they were going to play. We did a good job of making them a halfcourt team and they are not nearly as effective as getting up and down the floor.
“Steubenville is a very good team. They’ve proven it all year. They have very good players and are very well coached.
“We wanted to keep it competitive and keep it close to wear them down. We play 10-12 girls and we knew that would be a factor because they don’t play that many.
“Both teams showed a lot of heart throughout.”