Frontier prevails for OVAC 1A title over Madonna
ST. CLAIRSVILLE — It was a line-in-the-sand moment.
Frontier found itself trailing by eight with three minutes to play in the third quarter in its Wheeling Hospital OVAC Class 1A championship game against Madonna Saturday at Ohio University Eastern.
At that point, Cougars head coach Roger Kirkpatrick opted to scrap his zone defense and go full court man. It may have been one of the best coaching decisions in his long and successful tenure at the Beaverton-based school.
Frontier went on an 11-point run to grab a lead it would never relinquish. The Cougars pressured the Blue Dons into nine turnovers after the switch to win going away, 54-44.
The OVAC crown was the first for Frontier since 2004 and first since the conference went to the tournament format.
“When we switched to the man defense, it made all the difference. Our zone was too passive,” Kirkpatrick said. “Our man (defense) really changed the tempo of the game and created some problems for them.
“I am just so happy for my players and staff. They have worked so hard for this. This was one of our goals going into the season. It is great to have them realize that goal.”
The win was the 14th in 21 starts for the top-seeded Cougars. They advanced to the finals via a 54-47 triumph over Cameron.
Madonna, meanwhile, evened at 9-9 on the season. The Blue Dons punched their ticket into the final with a hard-earned 63-57 triumph at Hundred.
“You have to be able to take care of the basketball. We did not do that when we needed to,” Madonna head coach George Vargo said. “They turned up the heat on us, and we didn’t handle it. But I am proud of my team. We played hard. We just didn’t handle their pressure.”
Logan Brookover fueled the Cougar title drive. The 6-foot-2 forward pumped in a game-high 18 points, six coming in the climactic fourth quarter, en route to earning the John Howell MVP Award. Tanner Bills was solid support with 14 points, while Kyle Daugherty netted 11.
Junior Lucky Pulice paced Madonna with 13 points. Athletic senior Brennan Secrist produced nine markers.
The two teams battled on dead-even terms in the first quarter, ending the frame in a 12-12 standoff. Frontier inched ahead, 24-23, at intermission.
Madonna committed 14 turnovers, twice as many as Frontier.
“This is the first time we have won the OVAC championship in this fashion,” Kirkpatrick said. “We won it the old way a few times, but it is really is nice to win it on the floor.”
Frontier 54, Madonna 44
Madonna 12-11-11-10 — 44
Frontier 12-12-6-24 — 54
MADONNA: Secrist 3, 3-4 9; Quering 0, 0-0 0; Thomas 0, 0-0 0; Arlia 0, 0-0 0; Boniti 3, 1-2 9; Moore 0, 0-0 0; Amaismeier 2, 0-0 6; Pulice 6, 1-1 13; Bone 3, 0-0 7; Gasvoda 0, 0-0 0. TOTALS: 17, 5-7: 44.
FRONTIER (54) — Bills 5, 4-4 14; Gutberlet 1, 2-2 5; Curtis 2, 0-0 6; Hoff 0, 0-0 0; Brookover 8, 2-2 18; Daugherty 4, 3-6 11. TOTALS: 20, 11-14: 54.
3-POINT GOALS: Madonna 5 (Boniti 2, Amaismeier 2, Bone); Frontier 3 (Curtis 2, Gutberlet).