Red Devils Nip Pilots
HANNIBAL – Teams live by the three-point basket. St. Clairsville did Monday night.
The Red Devils connected on a trio of bonus goals early in the fourth quarter and never looked back en route to a 62-57 triumph over homestanding River in boys’ high school basketball action inside the Richard L. Potts Gymnasium.
With the teams deadlocked at 46-all, the Red Devils’ Nate Harris made it 49-46. After the Pilots connected on 1-of-2 free throws, Drew Sefsick drained a bonus bomb from the right wing and, following a basket by River’s Stone Thompson, Brett Vike nailed another long-distance bucket as the margin increased to 55-49 with 5:11 left to play.
“We hit some big shots when we needed to,” St. Clairsville head coach Ryan Clifford allowed. “We knew this wasn’t going to be easy. We knew the teams they (River) had played. They don’t play a light schedule by any means and when you’re playing on the road, it’s always hard. We tell the guys that every time we go on the road we expect a dogfight and I knew we’d get one. Coach (Mark) Romick does a great job and I knew we’d get their best shot.”
The Pilots (3-7) got to within 58-55 when freshman Brody Lollathin scored while being fouled with 53.9 seconds on the clock. However, he missed the ensuing free throw and the Red Devils (7-1) cashed in four straight charity tosses down the stretch to hold on for their sixth consecutive victory.
The final two free throws came from senior Brett Vike who finished with a double-double that included 20 points and a dozen rebounds, six of which came in the second quarter when St. Clairsville went on an 18-2 run that turned a 23-12 deficit into a 32-25 advantage.
“He bailed us out, especially in the second quarter,” Clifford said of Vike. “We talked in a timeout that we were settling for threes in transition, and that’s our game, but when they’re not going in you’ve got to find another way (to score). He ignited us by going to the basket. We wear t-shirts that say sacrifice across the front of them because it’s got to be a different guy each night out that leads us. You’ve got to put your egos aside. You’ve got to put all of those selfish goals aside and Brett’s really done that early in the season.
I think everybody thought he’d be our leading scorer and he hasn’t been up to this point, but to his credit he’s just played and played and played and done whatever it took to win.”
After River bolted to a 20-12 lead after one quarter on the strength of eight points from freshman Ty Long. However, after Colton Lawrence knocked down a trey to start the second quarter, Vike netted six points to go along with his aforementioned half-a-dozen boards to spark the Red Devils to a 32-30 edge at the half. Will Balgo’s three-point basket ignited the spurt and Avery Henry added six points.
The Pilots navigated to a 39-all stalemate when Lollathin scored midway through the third panel. Thompson’s conventional three-point play put the hosts ahead for the first time since it was 25-18 at 42-39. The lead was 44-41 before Balgo tallied the final five points of the quarter for a 46-44 Red Devils’ advantage.
Lollathin knotted things at 46 moments into the final quarter, but the Red Devils started dialing in their long-range shots and pulled away.
“Super proud of the effort the guys gave,” River head coach Mark Romick said. “That’s a real nice basketball team that has a lot of weapons. We did some things well. They did some things well. It was a good high school basketball game. It was back-and-forth and I was proud of the way we dug in.”
Vike’s 20 points led a trio of Red Devils in double figures as Balgo added 15 and Harris contributed a dozen. Henry finished with eight. Balgo added seven rebounds and Henry pulled down six as St. Clairsville held a slim, 42-40, edge off the glass.
Thompson paced River with 18 points and eight boards. Lollathin had 11 points and five rebounds off the bench, while Longwell, who left the game late in the fourth quarter with a left elbow injury, had 10 points.
“If we get that type of effort every night, we’ll be alright,” Romick said.
River remains home Friday night when Bridgeport travels down Ohio 7, while St. Clairsville heads high atop the Purple City to meet Martins Ferry.