STEUBENVILLE - Rachel Rigaud did everything but sell popcorn for the Steubenville Central girls basketball team Thursday.
After opening the evening with a strong performance of the National Anthem, the senior post player proceeded to record a double-double (13 points and 10 rebounds) as the Lady Crusaders clipped Bubba Kapral and his St. John Central Lady Irish, 42-35.
Rigaud put Tom Winland's club ahead to stay following her conventional three point play (the deuce came off a nifty spin move in the paint) midway through the first quarter. Then she sparked a 6-0 run to start the second. Rigaud swished a couple of free tosses before scoring in the lane. Micca Mirabella recorded the other hoop after snaring an offensive rebound.
ST. JOHN’S Morgan DeLuca looks to pass as she’s guarded by a Steubenville Central defender during Thursday’s game in Jefferson County.
That scoring burst put Central ahead 22-11. Tori Knight's triple off glass to end the opening period allowed the hosts to grab a 16-11 advantage. At the intermission, Central was up 24-14.
Late in the fourth, the Irish cut the margin to six (36-30) after Jessica Alvey knocked down a jumper from the corner. Rigaud keyed the Central response. She assisted on a hoop by Mirabella, drew a charge to force a St. John turnover then drove hard to the basket for her final points of the contest.
"This was a big win for us against a very good team that is well-coached," Winland said. "I have a lot of respect for Bubba and his program.
"Rachel really stepped up for us. I expect that out of our seniors. They are all leaders and they know what they have to do in order for the team to succeed."
The victory moves Central to 3-6 and avenges a 34-29 loss suffered earlier in the season on the St. John floor. The Irish fall to 6-3.
"Our defense played well tonight (St. John failed to register a field goal in the second quarter) and we shot the ball better than we have lately," Winland continued. "We had a stretch late where their pressure really bothered us and we didn't take good care of the basketball (the Lady Crusaders were guilty of 28 turnovers).
"We're still learning how to win and how to handle having a lead. I'm proud of the girls. They played hard and earned this victory."
Mirabella finished with 10 points for Central, which connected on 18 of 48 field goal tries. Knight added seven, all coming in the first half.
"We're 6-3 but tonight we looked like we are 0-9," Kapral said. "For most of the game, we played with no passion and no effort. We did play hard the last eight minutes. We gift-wrapped this one.
"Give Central credit. They played well defensively and they're very methodical on offense. Tom is doing a nice job with his team. We made a run at the end (St. John outscored Central 14-10 during the final stanza), but we waited too long."
Kristen Russell paced the Lady Irish in scoring with 13. She too recorded a double-double, hauling down 12 rebounds. Marissa Rose had nine and Kaydie Coppa eight. St. John took 52 shots but swished just 11.
Both teams will return to the hardwood Saturday. Central hosts Beallsville and St. John will entertain Bellaire at 1 p.m. in a varsity game only.
ST. JOHN (35) - Coppa 2 ,3-4 8; Russell 4, 3-4 13; Rose 3, 3-6 9; DeLuca 0, 0-0 0; Sliva 0, 1-2 1; Alvey 2, 0-3 4; Totals: 11, 11-19 35. STEUBENVILLE CENTRAL (42) - Knight 3, 0-0 7; Irvin 2, 0-2 4; Rigaud 5, 3-5 13; Mirabella 4, 2-2 10; Parkinson 3, 0-2 6; Torrance 0, 0-0 0; Dziewatkoski 1, 0-0 2; Ondos 0, 0-0 0; Hunt 0, 0-0 0; Totals: 18, 5-12 42.
Three-Point Goals: SJC - Russell (2), Coppa. SCC - Knight.