Weir High buckles down, defeats CCHS

DRIVING DOWN — Weir High’s Elijah Gillette drives down low against Catholic Central on Tuesday. (Photo by Joe Catullo)

WEIRTON — For the second time this season, the young Catholic Central boys basketball team made life difficult for the high-flying Weir High squad on Tuesday.

However, for the second time this season, the Red Riders rose to the challenge and stepped up big time defensively, en route to their 55-43 victory.

It was another close contest for Weir High (7-3), which has won seven of its previous eight. Head coach Mike Granato is OK with those.

“In a sense, it’s showing that they’re in the game,” he said. “They know what we have to do to win and what we’re capable of. That’s what we’re going to have to do down the stretch to win games.”

After leading the Crusaders (2-7) 23-18 at halftime, the Red Riders began pulling away. A quick 7-0 scoring run midway through the third quarter and forcing seven turnovers in that frame (20 overall) gave them an 11-point cushion. The Crusaders kept it tight in the fourth but could not get closer than nine points.

“I thought Mike (Holmes) had a game plan trying to slow us down and playing physical,” Granato said. “One thing this group hasn’t done yet is beat a team for the second time that we already beat. You never know how that’s going to affect them. They came out and played the style we knew they were going to play. We needed to do a better job of getting in our press and pressuring them early on, as well as recognizing some open men.”

What hurt Catholic Central the most were the 20 turnovers (15 in the second and third quarters combined) and making only 11 of 23 free throws. If it had fewer turnovers, it could have made a bigger impact.

“Going back to our first meeting with them, the No. 1 thing we said to our kids was we had to possess the ball,” said Holmes, Catholic Central’s first-year head coach. “We were trying to be patient because we don’t have as much fire power as other teams, so we were trying to make it a defensive grind. That’s what we’re trying to create, but you can’t do that if you’re losing possessions.”

Senior Luca Haught paced the Red Riders even when they struggled to find a rhythm offensively. He recorded a game-high 16 points, four assists and three rebounds.

“We went with some plays to get him the ball more in the open court,” Granato said. “They really were packing down in the post tonight. They were triple-teaming Reed (Reitter) all over the place. That opened up some penetration for Luca. He made some key baskets and got his assists in transition.

“We’re a better team when we fly around. We’re a running team. It’s no secret after 10 games.”

Reitter, despite the tight coverage, tallied 11 points, three boards and two dimes. Tanner Mikula also had 11 points. Elijah Gillette added 10 points, three assists and two rebounds.

“We have 10 kids that can play,” Granato said. “The good news is that there are 10 different kids who can play. What hurts you is, playing with that kind of depth, you can’t run as much stuff as you’d like to. It’s difficult at times to create chemistry, but I thought we wore them down.”

For the Crusaders, Dom Argentine led with 15 points and four rebounds. Vince Carapellotti contributed eight points, eight rebounds and three assists. Luca Connor had seven points, four rebounds and three assists off the bench. Michael Rook also scored seven points.

“With the weapons that they have, I thought our defense was very good throughout,” Holmes said. “We gave up some layups at the end, but we’re not used to running the press. We were just trying to stay in it at the end. Against a team that’s been on a roll like they have been on, that’s what we want to do. We have to create a grinding type of a game. We just could not get over the hump because we turned the ball over too many times.”

Catholic Central’s schedule does not get easier, as it visits East Liverpool on Friday.

“The one thing we’re taking advantage of tremendously throughout this tough schedule is we’re seeing the level we need to play at consistently to be successful at the varsity level,” Holmes said. “They’re learning varsity basketball, and I think the improvement has been tremendous. We just don’t get the opportunity to see it because there’s no let-up. Friday is another brutal game for us. Six of our top eight guys are sophomores, so it is a learning experience. I think we are getting closer.”

As for the Red Riders, they will look to win their second-consecutive city championship on Friday when they host Madonna.

“We got the city championship on Friday. It’s always a big crowd with big energy,” Granato said. “It should be a great atmosphere.”

GAME NOTES

¯ The Weir High jayvee squad defeated the Crusaders, 58-26. Skylar Jackson led the Red Riders with 16 points, while Catholic Central’s Toby Lesnefsky had nine.

¯ Weir High first defeated Catholic Central on Dec. 21, 49-41.

(Catullo can be reached at jcatullo@heraldstaronline.com)

Weir High 55, Catholic Central 43

Catholic Central 8-10-11-14 — 43

Weir High 13-10-17-15 — 55

CATHOLIC CENTRAL (2-7): Gorman 1 0-2 2; Argentine 7 0-0 15; M. Rook 2 1-2 7; Carapellotti 2 4-9 8; J. Rook 1 2-2 4; Connor 1 4-6 7; Hough 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 14, 11-23: 43.

WEIR HIGH (7-3): Gillette 4 1-1 10; Buffington 0 1-2 1; Mikula 4 2-5 11; Haught 6 3-3 16; Reitter 5 1-4 11; Trupiano 1 1-2 3; Spencer 0 0-0 0; McCoy 0 0-0 0; Nutter 0 0-0 0; McUmar 0 3-4 3. TOTALS: 20, 12-21: 55.

3-POINT GOALS: Catholic Central 4 (Argentine, M. Rook 2, Connor); Weir High 3 (Gillette, Mikula, Haught). REBOUNDS: Catholic Central 19 (Carapellotti 8); Weir High 20 (McCoy 5). ASSISTS: Catholic Central 10 (Gorman 3, Carapellotti 3, Connor 3); Weir High 12 (Haught 4). TURNOVERS: Catholic Central 20; Weir High 11.

COMMENTS