ST. CLAIRSVILLE - The Shadyside Lady Tigers never forgot the feeling they experienced last year in the Wheeling Hospital OVAC Girls Basketball Championship.
With seniors Karli Bonar, Hayley Holenka and Kristen Fijalkowski leading the way, Shadyside made sure they didn't have to experience it again.
Leading basically wire-to-wire, the Lady Tigers put an impressive finishing touch on their regular season by winning the Class 2A title, 53-44, over top-seeded Wheeling Central Saturday morning at the Health and Physical Education Center on the campus of Ohio University Eastern.
SENIOR CHAMPS. Shadyside’s seniors proudly display the Wheeling Hospital OVAC?Girls Basketball Championships Class 2A trophy after the Tigers defeated Wheeling Central Saturday morning. They are, from left, Kristen Fijalkowski, Haykey Holenka, Dana Jackson, Karli Bonar and Lauren May. Additional images can be found at cu.timesleaderonline.com
The win gave Shadyside a 2-1 edge in the season series against the Lady Maroon Knights and also avenged last season's loss when the Lady Tigers were the top seed.
"Winning the OVAC is always special, but we had such a bitter feeling last year that this is especially nice," said Shadyside head coach Tina Yates. "We wanted to get the feeling back from two years ago and these kids invested countless hours to make it happen."
The Lady Tigers, who will next see action in Division IV sectional play Saturday against Caldwell, got out of the gates quickly, which basically set the tone for the game as the Lady Maroon Knights (17-4) could never get untracked in the first half.
"I thought the difference was our defense," Yates said. "It was just a total team effort. We worked hard to stop (Emily) Bucon and (Colleen) McCormick and every girl contributed in stopping them."
The aforementioned Lady Tiger leaders - Bonar and Holenka - combined for 37 points, while the Knights' lethal duo was held to just 15 and McCormick scored 11 of those.
"Shadyside did a good job of clogging up the middle, taking away driving lanes and just completely took away Colleen in the first half," said Central head coach Penn Kurtz. "Plus, we couldn't make a shot. It just felt like we were a step slower than Shadyside for most of the first half."
The Lady Tigers owned a 20-10 lead at the intermission after holding Central to just one Delaney Denniston bonus basket in the second quarter.
"I can't remember a game when we've ever had just 10 points at halftime," Kurtz lamented. "We couldn't get the ball to go through the hoop. Shadyside is a great team and deserved to win. Look at how many of the teams out here (Saturday) that they've played and beaten."
Holenka had the hot hand in the first half as Central did all it could to bottle up Bonar, who is Ohio's all-time leading 3-point shooter. Holenka scored 11 of her points in the first 16 minutes.
"I thought our whole offense was good," Yates said. "The girls played very unselfishly. They were patient and found the open girl."
That continued in the second half as the LTs were able to fend off several mini spurts by the Lady Knights. Central trailed by nine after three chapters and couldn't get much closer thanks to a 13-of-20 effort at the line.
Bonar hit three bonus baskets in the game and now has 335 in her career. She also passed out five assists as sophomore Kenzie Fielding and junior Toni Andes got going in the second half. Andes scored all seven of her points in the second half and Fielding finished with six points and four boards.
Senior Kristen Fijalkowski also had a workmanlike performance. She had only two free throws, but she made countless winning plays that won't appear in the boxscore, including a team-high six rebounds.
McCormick and Denniston had 11 and 10 points, respectively to lead the Knights. Lindsey Baker contributed eight before fouling out.
Staskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org