Veteran Martins Ferry head boys' basketball coach Jeff Sabatino knew the deck was stacked against him Friday night.
First of all, his Purple Riders had to travel to the hilltop to meet Division II-ranked St. Clairsville in a Buckeye 8 matchup.
Secondly, they had to do it short-handed as senior Tyler Strama, who was just returning to the lineup from a football injury, is once again sidelined with a concussion and broken nose.
ST. CLAIRSVILLE’S Dan Monteroso goes up for a shot against Martins Ferry’s Robert Vargo during the first quarter of Friday’s game in St. Clairsville. Additional images may be found at cu.timesleaderonline.com
Those two factors resulted in a 76-42 victory for the homestanding Red Devils (10-1) on John Jenkins Court before a packed house.
"They are a very good basketball team and they were awfully good tonight," Sabatino offered. "To come in here and have to start two freshmen and a sophomore against that team was a real uphill battle from the start."
Indeed it was, as the Red Devils were clicking on all cylinders, and them some, as they rode a balanced scoring that saw a trio of starters combine for 60 points.
Senior standout Dan Monteroso didn't waste any time making his presence known as he tallied 11 of his team's 14 first-quarter points. The hosts led 14-12 as Martins Ferry's Cody Schau netted eight points to keep it close.
While the 6-3 Monteroso, a Boston College football recruit, was tacking on 10 points in the second quarter via a variety of moves, which included a one-handed putdown, classmate Adam Jeffries was lighting it up from beyond the bonus arc. The 6-0 long-range artist knocked down a trio of trifectas that helped the Red Devils build a 29-19 lead.
However, the highlight of the second panel was Riley Carlton's steal and buzzer-beating three-ball from deep in the left corner. That highlight reel shot gave the hosts a comfortable, 38-23, advantage at the half.
Jerrid Marhefka, who did an outstanding defensive job on Schau the entire night, Jeffries and Monteroso dropped in back-to-back-to-back treys to start the third quarter and the rout was on.
A 24-12 scoring advantage ballooned the margin to 62-35 and veteran St. Clairsville head coach Kim Clifford called the dogs off early in the final period.
"We made a lot of shots tonight and played really good defense, especially against their big guys inside," Clifford noted. "I was really pleased that we made it difficult for them to get the ball into them."
Monteroso finished with another double-double as he totalled 30 points and grabbed 11 rebounds - both game-highs. However, he was supported by Jeffries with 16 and Carlton with 14. That duo combined for eight bonus goals. Marhefka had seven counters.
"They've just got so many weapons. You just can't guard one of them," Sabatino allowed.
Schau led the Purple Riders with 18 points, but no one else would reach double figures. Emilio Appolloni added nine, while Robert Vargo chipped in seven.
"JMar is a really good defender," Clifford said. "But our kids are veteran kids and they understand when a team is going to one guy. We gave JMar help when he needed it."
Monteroso, already the school's all-time leading scorer, pulled to within 36 points of the coveted 2,000-point mark in his illustrious career.
"Dan is Dan," Clifford said. "What else can you say?"
The Red Devils only turned the ball over five times, eight less than the Purple Riders. St. Clairsville led 35-31 off the glass.
Martins Ferry returns home to entertain Buckeye Local Tuesday inside the Tolbert Gymnasium. Meanwhile, St. Clairsville begins a three-game road trip by visiting Richmond the same night to meet Edison.
St. Clairsville made it a clean sweep with a win in the preliminary game.
MARTINS FERRY (42) - Schau 9 0-3 18; Vargo 3 1-1 7; Appolloni 4 1-3 9; Barritt 2 0-0 5; A. Burress 1 0-0 3; Sears 0 0-0 0; J. Burress 0 0-1 0; Agnew 0 0-0 0; Rine 0 1-2 1; Edwards 0 0-0 0; Totals: 19-48 3-10. ST. CLAIRSVILLE (76) - Monteroso 12 4-6 30; Marhefka 3 0-0 7; Giffin 0 0-0 0; Jeffries 6 0-0 16; Carlton 5 0-0 14; Campbell 0 3-4 3; Burghy 1 0-0 3; Derosa 0 0-0 0; Gossett 0 0-0 0; Keylor 0 1-2 1; Panepucci 0 0-0 0; Coleman 1 0-0 2; Totals: 28-54 8-12.
Three-Point Goals: Martins Ferry 1 (Barritt); St. Clairsville 12 (Jeffries 4, Carlton 4, Monteroso 2, Marhefka, Burghy)
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