STEUBENVILLE-Catholic Central's heart-stopping 64-62 victory over Barnesville Friday left both coaches with plenty to ponder.
Sean Tucker knew his now 8-3 Crusaders "got away with one and have to eliminate mistakes." Chris Pack, on the other hand, was left to wonder why his 4-6 Shamrocks can't seem to "make one more play."
The game was hard-fought from wire to wire, featured some outstanding individual performances and a downright intense final quarter.
Central led 14-11 after one and 26-19 at the half thanks to nine points, six rebounds and two steals from senior Brannt Pieniazek. Zach Herrington extended the lead to nine at the start of the third when he scored off a Pieniazek assist. Dylan MacMillan swished a three for the Shamrocks and the momentum began to shift.
Barnesville's full-court defensive pressure forced the Crusaders into numerous turnovers and Zack Dornon made them pay. He scored 13 of his game-high 17 markers during the period as the Rocks closed to within one (41-40). Herrington nearly matched Dornon's offensive output, scoring nine of Central's 15 points, six coming from behind the arc.
Ryan Fletcher put the Crusaders up by three to start the final frame when he went up strong after grabbing an offensive rebound. Preston Dornon tickled the twine from three-point land to knot the score. Barnesville then grabbed the lead for the first time since the opening stanza when 6-5 senior Tyler Fitzpatrick scored following a Preston Dornon steal. A Zack Dornon deuce put the visitors ahead 47-43. Herrington stopped the 7-0 Shamrock run with a free throw make. Preston Dornon scored again, setting the stage for the exciting finish.
Herrington got a pair from in close and Brenton Colabella canned a baseline jumper.
The sophomore followed with a three and CCHS was up 51-49 with a little more than four minutes left. Moments later, Fitzpatrick put Barnesville back on top 55-53. That's when Central's Michael Carapellotti got going.
The junior sharpshooter nailed two triples, the second putting his team ahead to stay at 61-60. He then made three of four from the charity stripe and the Crusaders, ranked second in this week's Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Class AA standings, held on for the victory.
After turning the ball over just four times in the first half, Central finished with 15 ball-handling miscues.
"No question, we got away with one tonight," Tucker stated. "We prepared for the pressure all week but we made too many mistakes. We have to eliminate those costly mistakes. You have to be able to finish at the line and we did that tonight."
Pack agreed with Tucker's assessment, noting "our pressure did give them some trouble. They shot the ball really well and knocked down some big shots."
He added his Shamrocks had an "off night shooting the ball at times (they were 25 of 60 but did finish with six triples)." However, the coach admitted his club "kept battling."
"We got ourselves the lead and had plenty of opportunities to put it away (Barnesville misfired on its final five tries from the floor)," he added. "We've lost six games and five have come down to the last possession. If we would have made one more play, we'd have five more wins. Hopefully in the second half of the season, we'll learn to make that one more play."
Herrington finished with 16 points pacing Central. Colabella and Carapellotti both had 13 and combined for 16 markers during the decisive final eight minutes. The Crusaders hit 26 of their 44 field goal attempts (they dialed long distance seven times) and out-rebounded Barnesville 28-26. Pieniazek grabbed eight boards for the Crusaders and Fitzpatrick nine for the Shamrocks.
Zack Dornan was one of four Shamrocks to reach double figures. Fitzpatrick had 14, MacMillan 13 and Preston Dornan 11.
"The kids are giving a great effort," Pack noted. "They are giving themselves a chance to win the game at the end. Tonight, the ball just didn't fall through the hoop."
Central will return to action tonight, hosting talented Harrison Central.
CENTRAL (8-3): Colabella 6 0-1 13; Pieniazek 4 0-0 9; Carapellotti 4 3-4 13; Mihalyo 0 0-0 0; Emmerling 1 0-0 2; Herrington 6 2-4 16; Fletcher 4 0-0 8; Martello 1 0-0 3. TOTALS: 26 5-8 64. 3-pointers: Carapellotti (2), Herrington (2), Colabella, Pieniazek, Martello.
BARNESVILLE (4-6): Hannahs 0 0-0 0; Stephens 0 0-0 0; I. Wells 1 0-0 2; Z. Dornon 7 2-3 17; Burkhart 1 3-4 5; MacMillan 5 1-3 13; P. Dornon 4 0-0 11; Fitzpatrick 7 0-1 14. TOTALS: 25 6-13 62. 3-pointers: P. Dornon (3), MacMillan (2), Z. Dornon.