Madonna girls defend, hang on to win city championship

Madonna's Andrea Almario keeps possession away from Weir High's Bella Aperfine on Thursday. (Photo by Joe Catullo)

WEIRTON — The Madonna girls basketball team stopped a Weir High third period rally and pulled away in the fourth quarter to win their fifth straight city championship and eighth in the last nine by a score of 50-36 Thursday night before a standing room only crowd on the JoAnna Bernabei McNamee court inside the Bill Barrett Gymnasium.

The two Lady Blue Don post players, Andrea Alimario and Kasey Canei, combined to score 38 of the points as first-year coach Rodney Boniti’s club won it’s seventh game in in 15th starts.

The large turnout included Madonna alumni from the 1992 girls state championship team and coach Chuck Hensler, which were honored on the 25th anniversary of the event. That team, which went 24-2, included JoAnna Bernabei McNamee, who was unable to attend because she now is the head coach of the Albany State women’s basketball team that is sporting a fine 18-2 record.

“To come into this gym tonight and see there wasn’t an empty seat including a large student section on bleachers on the stage, was huge for the girls,” Boniti said. “I would say this may be the largest crowd for a Madonna girls game in 15 years or maybe back 25 years when the 1992 team won the state championship.

“Our girls stepped up to the challenge. They faced a well coached, disciplined team in Weir High that has a ton of athletes on the floor. Rick Stead has his team ready to play and they made a couple of runs at us, but our girls took their best punch and came back for the win. That three-pointer at the end of the third quarter when your center came up to the three-point line and know the timing on the clock and get that shot off definitely brought the people out of their seats.”

The Lady Red Riders (6-10) had fought back from a 22-17 halftime deficit to close the gap to one at 29-28 on a short jumper by junior Julia Gianni. Alimario answered that with a deuce and Red Rider freshman Bella Aperfine drained a 15-foot jumper from the foul line with 12 seconds left on the clock to get it back to one point again at 31-30.

As the Lady Blue Dons put the ball in play after Aperfine’s shot, time was running out and Canei, who rarely gets an shots outside the paint found the ball in her hands with one second left. She let it fly and the ball hit nothing but net.

“That shot changed the momentum of the game against us,” said Weir High’s Rick Stead, whose club turned the ball over 23 times in the game. “We were playing a man press at that point and we don’t pick up one girl. She dribbles up the court and drained that three and that changed the whole tempo of the game. After that happened, I felt our girls had the wind come out of their sails and we weren’t able to give our best effort in the fourth quarter.”

Madonna increased that 34-30 lead to 41-30 in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter. They outscored Weir High 16-6 in the fourth quarter.

“Ever since the beginning we’ve had three goals,” said Alimario, who scored seven of her points going down the stretch in the fourth quarter and also led the Blue Dons in rebounding with eight. “One is the city championship, two is the OVAC championship and three is a state tournament appearance. So, this is one-third of our goals accomplished.

“We knew we had a little mismatch with our size so Kasey and I took it to the basket whenever we had the chance. This big crowd was amazing. I loved every second of it.”

To compensate for the height advantage of the Lady Blue Dons, Stead put junior Trezur Sartor into the starting lineup and had her guarding Alimario. Sartor finished with only two points, but she led Weir High with eight boards including four off the offensive glass.

The Lady Red Riders’ lone senior Bailey Stead led her team with 11 points as she inched closer to a career 1,000. Aperfine scored eight points and had seven boards and a couple of assists.

Boniti said the Lady Blue Dons have won 6 of their last 9 games and out of those last 9 games have played 5 ranked teams. The Blue Dons play another ranked team Saturday as No. 3 Parkersburg Catholic invades the Bill Barrett Gymnasium Saturday. Tip-off time for the jayvee game is at noon.

The Lady Red Riders travel to the Clarksburg area Saturday to play Liberty Harrison.

Game notes:

¯ The Weir High jayvees won the preliminary game 36-28 with Sarah Hudacheck leading the way with 10 points. Michaela Battista topped the Blue Don scoring with 10 points.

Madonna 50, Weir High 36

Weir High 6-11-13-6 — 36

Madonna 11-11-12-16 — 50

WEIR HIGH (6-10): Mikula 1 1-2 3; Fuscardo 1 0-0 2; Webster 1 2-2 4; Aperfine 4 0-1 8; Gianni 2 0-0 4; Maley 0 2-6 2; Stead 3 2-3 11; Sartor 0 2-6 2. TOTALS: 12 9-20 36.

MADONNA (7-8): Riccadonna 3 0-0 7; Staffileno 1 1-2 3; Mascio 0 0-1 0; Martin 1 0-0 2; Alimario 7 6-8 20; Canei 5 7-8 18. TOTALS: 17 14-19 50.

3-POINT GOALS: Weir High 3 (Stead 3); Madonna 2 (Riccadonna, Canei). REBOUNDS: Weir High 22 (Sartor 8); Madonna 20 (Alimario 8). TURNOVERS: Weir High 23; Madonna 12.