Lady Pilots Claim First OVAC Girls Basketball Title
ST. CLAIRSVILLE – Though it defies the cliche, the fourth time was the charm for River. First. After coming up empty on its initial three trips to the championship game of the Wheeling Hospital OVAC Girls Basketball Championship, the Pilots broke through Saturday morning.
Using a strong foul shooting performance and an all-around floor game from junior point guard Lauren Flannery, the Pilots fought off Shadyside for a 47-44 victory.
“I am so proud of these young ladies,” River coach Rick Isaly said as he clinched his first conference title in 13 seasons at the helm. “We went through a stretch where I thought we were over-scheduled, playing real tough games. When you get beat, it gets the girls down, but now I think we need to play that competition to get ready for the tournament.”
Along with the OVAC title, the Pilots also take the season series with the Tigers (14-7) after the teams split their earlier match-ups. It was actually a loss at Shadyside in late January that seemingly ignited the Pilots.
Since that outing, River has now reeled off seven consecutive wins.
“We knew we had to win out to get in (the OVAC tournament),” Isaly said. “We have just continued with that momentum and hopefully we can keep it going.”
The Pilots had very little time to thoroughly enjoy their title until the buzzer went off, because whenever it seemed like they were set to pull away, Shadyside would hit a big shot.
The dynamic freshmen duo of Baylee Wach and Tory Hendershot hit 3-pointers in the fourth to keep the Tigers close. Hendershot’s goal came with just 51 seconds left and knotted the game at 42-42.
River, however, was unflappable. The Pilots got the ball into Flannery’s hands, who continually made plays. Whether it was her 10 of 10 effort at the line, including five straight in the fourth, or when she saved two possessions by calling timeouts, she fully earned the game’s MVP award.
All told, Flannery finished with 20 points. “I was nervous coming into this game because it was like we were cursed on this floor,” Flannery said. “Being able to get this win is exciting.”
Ali Long played a pivotal role in the Lady Pilots’ win; she not only followed with 14 markers, and a dozen rebounds, she also was resilient in keeping the ball alive on the boards, and getting to the line with her aggressive play. Meanwhile, Riley Lollathin contributed eight points, including a pair of crucial jumpers in crucial situations in the second half of action.
In addition, Candace Caldwell tallied a deuce; while Caryson Reynolds might have only scored the winning free throw, she helped Lollathin and Flannery to play keep-away from the Lady Tigers down the stretch..
(Bruce Crawford also contributed to the story.)
Lady Pilots Receive Ticket To The Dance, Humble Catholic, 64-55
The River Pilots girls basketball team outscored the Steubenville Catholic Crusaders, 33-23, in the first half, holding on for a 64-55 victory in the 11th Annual OVAC Class-
AA Semifinals. The matchup was held Feb. 5, inside the Steubeville Catholic Gymnasium.
River took a 15-11, leading the first stanza, thanks to six Lauren Flannery points and five markers by Carsyn Reynolds. Flannery followed up with 10 markers in the second, while Ali Long tacked on four points for a River 10-point lead at the break.
“We came out pretty strong in the first two periods,” River Head Coach Rick Isaly said. “Out press got things going for us, that helped us get the lead.”
The Crusaders fought back in the third, outscoring the Pilots, 22-16, with the Pilots’ Candace Caldwell starting to heat up. She sank two of her four triples, and four two-point baskets by Long to keep the Crusaders at bay, heading into the fourth period with River on top, 49-45.
However, the Lady Pilots, winners of their last six games, held off Catholic with the help of 6-8 in the period; Caldwell’s fourth triple and Flannery’s six points wouldn’t be denied, winning, 64-55.
The Pilots were paced by Flannery with a game-high 26 points, including a triple. Caldwell tallied 13 points, that included four three-point baskets. Long poured in a dozen points for all the Pilots double-digit scorers.
In addition, Reynolds provided nine markers, while Mikenzie Cieszeski swished a basket from beyond the arch. Returning to the lineup from a leg injury from a couple weeks ago was Riley Lollathin, who knocked in a free throw for all the River scoring.
Meanwhile, the top-seeded Steubenville Crusaders’ Julia Zatta and Christine Dombrowski each tallied 17 markers, that also included a pair of bonus bombs, to lead the Crusaders.
Both teams scored 22 field goals, with the Pilots making one more triple and six more free throws for the difference.
This will make Coach Isaly’s fourth trip to the dance since they went to the playoff system. Isaly is excited to return to the finals with this young team. “We have been runner-up these past three times, so we are looking to finish the deal this weekend,” stated Isaly.