Blue Dons hang on to earn the victory

AND ONE — Madonna’s Andrea Alimario hits a layup and is fouled by Linsly’s Josie Purpura on Wednesday. (Photo by Joe Catullo)

WEIRTON — The Madonna girls basketball team led by double digits early in the fourth quarter, but Linsly refused to go away quietly into the night.

The Cadets stormed back and had a couple of chances to tie the score late in the game, but the Blue Dons were able to hold on for a 48-45 victory Wednesday night to split the season series.

The Blue Dons led 43-29 early in the fourth, but the Cadets battled back and pulled within 47-45 with 2:06 left to play. Trailing 48-45 with 6.9 seconds left, the Cadets had a chance to tie the score. Linsly inbounded the ball following a timeout, but Madonna stepped up defensively and forced a tough 3-pointer that did not hit the rim. The hosts inbounded the ball with a little more than one second left. The visitors intercepted the long pass at halfcourt, but they were not able to get a shot off as time expired.

“We expected them to roll their two shooters and use either backside screens or high-ball screens to roll their shooters out,” Madonna (9-2) head coach Rodney Boniti said. “We wanted to close out on their shooters. We wanted to deny them. We did not want them to touch the ball. We decided we were going to let anyone touch the ball except for their two shooters.

“We did a good job on the inbound pass. We were able to tip it, and we were able to force them to take a floating left-handed 3-pointer, and the ball did not hit the rim. After a timeout, we were able to get the ball in to end the game.”

Linsly made three 3-pointers in the game, but the Cadets were unable to convert from beyond the arc on a couple of occasions late.

“We wanted to have a couple of options,” Linsly (4-9) head coach Rebecca Upton said about her team’s possession with 6.9 seconds remaining. “We did not know what defense they were going to be in. They had switched defenses on us throughout the game. It was a crap shoot. In hindsight, I would have done things a little differently.

“Games don’t come down to one possession. That’s not how it works. We let some opportunities go by earlier in the game. If we shot the ball better, rebounded better, took care of the ball better and did not foul as much, the game could have been different. A lot of little things add up to determine the outcome.”

Some coaches choose to foul in that situation, but Boniti decided not to in the waning seconds.

“I thought about it,” he said. “They shoot well from the free throw line. We did not want to give them an opportunity to make the first one and then miss the second one and get the rebound for a put back. They have a lot of height, and they have a lot of length. We didn’t want them to be able to close out and get the rebound and have an easy putback. We took our chances with the 3.”

The Cadets ended the night 14 of 16 from the charity stripe, while the Blue Dons struggled, converting 11 of 18 chances. Madonna made just 1 of 4 shots from the line in the fourth.

Two players scored in double digits to lead the way for Madonna. Andrea Alimario tallied a game-high 19 points, while Gabriella Staffileno finished with 14.

Two players also scored in double figures for Linsly. Brinley Steen tallied a team-high 12 points, while Josie Purpura produced 11 points.

“We talked at halftime about having to be tougher, and it took another quarter for us to be able to do that,” Upton said. “It was a physical game. Madonna was able to get the loose balls. They outscrapped us. In the fourth quarter, we came out and decided we were going to be tougher. I am proud of my girls. This is a tough gym to play in.”

Madonna’s momentum carried over into the third quarter, as the Blue Dons built a 41-27 advantage before taking a 41-29 lead into the fourth.

“We got the big lead, but our starting center had four fouls and our point guard had four fouls,” Boniti said. “We got out of rhythm. They pressured us all night. I think that we handle the press well, but for about three minutes we turned the ball over, and they were able to cut into the lead. We called timeout, and after that we got a bucket, and we were able to get back into a rhythm.”

Madonna is slated to host Notre Dame Saturday afternoon. The varsity game is scheduled to start at 1:30 p.m.

“Clarksburg Notre Dame has a great coach and a great program,” Boniti said. “They have most of their players back from last year. We split with them last year. They are fourth or fifth in the state. We are going to see a lot of 1-3-1 and three-quarter court traps. They are going to pressure us and try to get out into transition. It is going to be a heck of a matchup. It is going to be two powerhouses punching each other on Saturday.

“This is the first time in 10-12 years we are ranked in the AP Poll. We are ranked eighth in the state. The girls are excited about that. Hopefully, we are able to keep being ranked in the weeks ahead.”

Madonna 48, Linsly 45

Linsly 10-12-7-16 — 45

Madonna 11-18-12-7 — 48

LINSLY (4-9): Menedndez 0 2-2 2; Allison 2 4-4 9; Purpura 3 3-3 11; Grimm 2 0-0 4; Heitz 1 1-1 3; Heron 0 2-4 2; Heller 1 0-0 2; Steen 5 2-2 12. TOTALS: 14, 14-16: 45.

MADONNA (9-2): Boniti 2 1-3 5; Riccadonna 1 0-0 2; Staffileno 5 4-7 14; Battista 1 0-0 2; Melynk 1 2-3 4; Alimario 7 4-5 19; Martin 1 0-0 2. TOTALS: 18, 11-18 48.

3-POINT GOALS: Linsly 3 (Purpura 2, Allison); Madonna 1 (Alimario). TURNOVERS: Linsly 11; Madonna 23.