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CCHS gets even, splits series with Madonna

POSTING UP — Madonna’s Alaina Moore posts up against Catholic Central’s Isabella Oliver on Monday. -Joe Catullo

WEIRTON — Isabella Oliver and Katie Zatta combined for 36 points Monday, as Catholic Central earned a 58-44 victory over Madonna before a full house inside the Bill Barrett Gymnasium.

The Crusaders improved to 11-5 with their fifth consecutive win and split the season series with their cross-river rivals (the Dons posted a 50-45 triumph earlier this month). Madonna falls to 8-5.

Both teams remain in the hunt for berths in the OVAC tournament. Central was second this week in the Class 2A standings, while the Blue Dons trailed Beallsville in the Class 1A ranks.

“I was real happy to get this one,” Central coach Jess Looman said. “This is a tough place to play, and Madonna is a very good basketball team. Coach (Rodney) Boniti does an outstanding job with his players.

“All in all, I thought our girls played a solid game. We still didn’t put together a full 32 minutes, but we’re getting closer. The girls came out strong and were prepared. We had a couple of good practices leading up to this game, and that showed tonight.”

Central, thanks to five points by Oliver, jumped out to a 13-8 lead after the opening quarter. The Crusaders increased their advantage to nine early in the second before the Blue Dons battled back.

Sophomore guard Vanessa Alatis led the Blue Don rally, as she canned 12 points, all coming from behind the arc. Central led, 23-22, at the intermission.

“In the first quarter, Central got hot for a stretch and rattled off eight or nine quick points,” Boniti said. “It looked like they were going to blow us out of the gym. Then our girls decided to fight back, and they played some fundamental defense for a change.

“We were able to creep back into it, but we still were not feeling good about it. We weren’t moving the ball well, and we were throwing the ball around. Central sat back in a nice 1-2-2 defense. We got some good looks in the first half, but they didn’t all drop.”

Zatta drained a couple of triples in the third, and Carly Fayak added another, as Central outscored its host, 15-6. Eight fourth-quarter points from Zatta and five from Oliver helped the Crusaders seal the deal.

“We had some bad reads in the second half, and Central capitalized on the things we did wrong,” Boniti said. “We knew Central was going to mix things up from the first game. Jess (Looman) changed the scheme of things, and that made a huge difference. In the first game, they pressed us, and I think that hurt them a little. They made some changes, and they played it well.

“In the first game, I think Central got 73 shots on us. Tonight, they weren’t too far behind, but their shooting percentage was much better.”

Oliver and Zatta both finished with 18 points. Zatta had four connections from behind the arc. Fayak and Edy Harold contributed eight points each. Oliver pulled down 10 rebounds, as did Hannah Olszewski.

“We’ve come to rely on Bella and Katie for scoring, and they both delivered tonight,” Looman said. “Carly hit some key shots for us, as did Edy inside. Edy’s not the biggest girl on the floor, but she works so hard and really battles for us. Hannah was very physical tonight and did a nice of job of keeping Madonna’s bigs off the boards.

“Defensively, I thought we played pretty well. We switched things up, and the girls followed the game plan well. We had 12 steals (Morgan Green led the Crusaders with four), so that says something about our defensive effort.”

Junior standout Jazzy Melnyk led the Blue Dons with 18 points. Fourteen of her total came in the second half. Alatis had 12.

UP NEXT

Central: Idle until Saturday when it entertains River. The junior varsity tip is set for 11 a.m.

“We have two more tough ones (River and Weir) before the OVAC cutoff (next Monday),” Looman said. “We need to get our girls back in the gym, keep them working hard and keep them focused on what’s ahead.

“We have a lot of respect for coach Boniti, his staff and his girls. I’m sure they will be successful going forward.”

Madonna: Hosts Weir High Thursday in the annual city championship game.

“We’ve got another big rival to prepare for,” Boniti said. “They don’t stop flowing. We go from Oak Glen to Central to Weir. The back half of our schedule is loaded up. It doesn’t get any easier.

“Weir has been playing well. The few games they’ve lost have been tight. It’s going to be an interesting matchup in our gym Thursday. I want to wish Central good luck the rest of the season. They’re in a great spot for the OVAC tournament. They had a couple of early losses I thought they should have pulled out, but now it looks like they are rolling pretty well.”

Catholic Central 58, Madonna 44

Central 13-10-15-20 — 58

Madonna 8-14-6-16 — 44

CENTRAL (11-5): Zatta 7 0-2 18; Harold 4 0-1 8; Green 0 1-2 1; Rhode 0 0-0 0; Fayak 3 0-0 8; Grimm 0 0-0 0; Oliver 6 5-9 18; Olszewski 2 1-2 5. TOTALS: 22, 7-16: 58.

MADONNA (8-5): Costello 0 0-0 0; Backel 0 1-2 1; Wingett 0 0-0 0; Melnyk 8 2-2 18; Alatis 4 0-0 12; Moore 2 1-4 5; Martinez 1 0-0 2; Lenhart 1 0-0 2; Bone 2 0-0 4. TOTALS: 18, 4-8: 44.

3-POINT GOALS: Central 7 (Zatta 4, Fayak 2, Oliver); Madonna (Alatis 4).

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