Sawyer’s game-winner lifts Big Red to thrilling win over St. Clairsville

STEUBENVILLE — A high school basketball game is 32 minutes long, and Steubenville needed nearly all that time to complete a huge comeback and earn a thrilling 55-53 victory over St. Clairsville Tuesday inside the Crimson Center.

Down 11 to start the final quarter, Big Red kept chipping away until it pulled to within one (53-52) on a conventional three-point play by Zion Sawyer with a little more than two minutes remaining. Sawyer’s points capped an 8-0 Steubenville run.

Big Red’s defensive pressure forced a St. Clairsville turnover with 10 seconds left. Off an inbounds play following a timeout, Sawyer ended up with the basketball in the corner. He responded by drilling the game-winning triple.

“We always tell our guys you have to keep playing hard for 32 minutes,” Big Red coach Mike Haney said. “Tonight, I think they saw why. Our second lead didn’t come until there 3.5 seconds remaining (Big Red was up 10-9 midway through the opening quarter).

“During the timeout, coach (Anthony) Saccoccia went through an out of bounds play with the guys. We were looking to get the ball inside, but it wasn’t open. Zion was one of our options in the corner. We got him the ball, and he knocked it down. He’s been a good shooter for us all year, and he made one when it counted.”

St. Clairsville, on the strength of six 3-pointers, jumped out to an 18-15 lead after the opening quarter. Drew Sefsick, making his first varsity start, and Will Balgo each connected twice from behind the arc. Sefsick continued to have a hot hand in the second, knocking down nine points, as coach Ryan Clifford’s Red Devils extended their advantage to 37-24 at the intermission.

“In the first half, we moved the ball well, and we were unselfish,’ Clifford said. “We rebounded, and we understood the scouting report. We knew who to guard and who not to guard. We were just locked in, and that was the reason for the lead.”

A Sefsick hoop early in the third put St. Clairsville up, 42-26. Big Red then scored eight straight thanks to a conventional three-point play by Trillyun Jones and a behind-the-arc swish from Chase Zimmerman. Nate Harris’ hoop allowed the visitors to lead 46-36 heading into the fourth.

A long triple by Zimmerman made it 53-47 in the fourth. Quinn McCoy followed with a hoop in the paint before Sawyer’s conventional 3.

“Thank goodness our energy level on the defensive end picked up in the second half,” Haney said. “We were able to cut their lead down in the third and continue to cut into it early in the fourth. We really picked up the intensity during the final five minutes.

“We got some turnovers, and they forced some shots. We shot the ball terribly in the first half. I think we were 2 of 14 from behind the arc. Fortunately, however, we made the one that counted.”

St. Clairsville was guilty of seven ball-handling miscues during the opening 16 minutes. In the second half, the Red Devils turned it over 10 times.

“We were without a three-year starter (Brett Vike) tonight who was home with the flu,” Clifford said. “He definitely would have helped us deal with the pressure. That was the first time our young guys have experienced that kind of pressure-packed situation. It was exciting from the standpoint of the way they moved into role without one of our leaders.

“Our kids fought and fought. We deserved a better fate. Anyone who was here knows we deserved a better fate. But, give their kid credit, he knocked down a tough shot with a guy in his face.”

Calvin Bickerstaff led Big Red (8-5) in scoring with 17. He also collected a team-leading nine rebounds. Zimmerman finished with 14 points and Jones 10.

“This was a big win for us, particularly after last week’s loss at New Philadelphia,” Haney said. “I’m not sure if having a whole week off had anything to do with the way we started. I do know I have to do a better job of getting our guys to start the game faster.”

St. Clairsville’s Sefsick, just a sophomore, took game-scoring honors with 20 points. Balgo contributed 11 points and nine rebounds. Nate Harris finished with 10 points for the Red Devils (9-6).

“He’s not fazed by much,” Clifford said of Sefsick. “He has a good demeanor, and he’s calm. He plays the same way in the first quarter as he does in the fourth quarter. He has a really bright future for us and he put that on display tonight.

“What we did in the first half tonight should have been enough. We did everything to maintain the lead in the second half and force them to foul at the end. When they tried to foul, we weren’t rewarded.”


Brenton Jones netted 13 points and Ivan Buggs added 10, as Big Red collected a 43-39 victory in the junior varsity game. Saul Crist tallied 14 to pace the Red Devils.


St. Clairsville: Hosts John Marshall Friday.

Big Red: Visits East Liverpool Friday, the junior varsity tip is set for 5:30 p.m.

Steubenville 55, St. Clairsville 53

St. C 18-19-9-7 — 53

Steubenville 15-9-12-19 — 55

ST. CLAIRSVILLE (9-6): Wolfe 0 1-2 1; Oberdick 2 0-5 5; McCort 1 0-0 3; Sefsick 8 2-3 20; Balgo 4 0-0 11; Harris 4 1-2 10; Henry 1 1-1 3. TOTALS: 20, 5-11: 53.

STEUBENVILLE (8-5): Kernahan 1 0-0 2; Jones 3 3-3 10; Sawyer 2 1-1 6; Gresko 0 0-0 0; Bickerstaff 7 3-4 17; Zimmerman 5 1-2 14; Krause 0 0-0 0; Rook 0 0-0 0; Jackson 1 0-0 2; McCoy 2 0-0 4. TOTALS: 21, 8-10: 55.

3-POINT GOALS: St. Clairsville 8 (Balgo 3, Sefsick 2, Oberdick, McCort, Harris); Steubenville 5 (Zimmerman 3, Jones, Sawyer). REBOUNDS: St. Clairsville 30 (Balgo 9); Steubenville 31 (Bickerstaff 9). TURNOVERS: St. Clairsville 17; Steubenville 8.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)

Starting at $4.39/week.

Subscribe Today