ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Leading by five with just under three minutes to play, it appeared as though Martins Ferry was about to pick up its second Wheeling Hospital OVAC Girls' Basketball Championship.
However, as red-hot as the Purple Riders have been of late, they suddenly went ice-cold from the floor and turned the ball over on three straight possessions as top-seeded Steubenville ended the Class 4-A title tilt on a 14-0 run for a 45-36 victory inside Ohio University Eastern's Health and Physical Education Building.
"That's the game of basketball," first-year Martins Ferry head coach Lindsay Coyne allowed. "They were No. 1 and they hit a big, big three. Then they hit a jumper in the lane and we came down and had a few turnovers.
MARTINS FERRY’S Jessica Kinney (20) drives past a Steubenville defender to the basket Saturday night. Looking on is the Purple Riders’ Shaina Oberdick (23). Additional images can be found at cu.timesleader-online.com
"But the girls were still listening to me and executing the offense," she continued. "Some times the ball just won't drop for you."
Big Red's late-game run was ignited by Taylor Young's bonus bomb that made it 36-34 in favor of the Purple Riders with 2:41 to go. The next 11 Steubenville points came from the free throw stripe, including two by Mytia Barker that deadlocked the game at 36.
Abby Taylor's two charity tosses with 1:48 remaining gave Big Red the lead for good. Emiley Masloski, Barker and Lysaih Rice all tickled the twine twice in the waning moments.
"We do a drill at the end of practice every day that's called the 28-point drill where we see how many baskets we can score in four minutes," Steubenville head coach Phil Casinelli explained. "I told the girls that we had four minutes to go. We've scored as many as 100 points in four minutes in practice, and I think that helped us today.
"I told them to keep playing solid defense and the shots would start to fall eventually," Casinelli said.
The defensive pressure forced the Purple Riders into six fourth-quarter turnovers, while the shots, even from the foul line, started to drop.
Despite the loss, Coyne was quick to praise the effort of her third-seeded squad.
"I am very, very proud of these girls. There's no reason for them to hang their heads because they gave a great fight. I couldn't be any more proud of them. Yes, we might have lost on the scoreboard, but you girls are winners because you play hard, and that's a coach's dream.
"You got here," she continued. "It's been four years, but you girls got here."
Senior standout Jessica Kinney scored 25 points to lead all scorers in the game. Only one other player scored more than two points.
"Jess is a special player, and maybe we tried to go to her too many times there at the end," Coyne admitted. "But she's our go-to player."
Masloski had a team-best dozen lightings for Steubenville. Rice, a freshman who came off the bench, added 11 and drew high praise from her head coach.
"Lysaih really gave us a lift early," he recalled. "When Emiley (Masloski) went down with a knee injury earlier this season, Lysaih's minutes really picked up and she has improved as the season has progressed."
Martins Ferry held a 29-25 edge off the boards as Kinney, Shaina Oberdick and Tyrah King all finished with five each. Barker led Big Red with nine caroms. Rice chipped in seven and also charted three steals and a pair of blocked shots.
The Purple Riders, who are idle until next Saturday when sectional tournament action begins, turned the ball over 17 times, two more than Big Red.
MARTINS FERRY (36) - Kinney 8 9-15 25; K. Stalder 1 0-0 2; M. Stalder 1 0-0 2; Suriano 0 0-0 0; Rose 1 2-3 4; DeLeonardis 0 0-0 0; Oberdick 0 0-0 0; Lee 1 0-0 2; King 0 1-3 1; Totals: 12-48 12-21. STEUBENVILLE (45) - E. Masloski 3 4-6 12; H. Masloski 1 2-2 4; Young 2 0-0 6; T. Barker 0 0-0 0; Herrin 0 0-0 0; Wilson 0 0-1 0; M. Barker 1 6-8 8; Rice 3 5-9 11; Bodo 0 0-2 0; Taylor 1 2-4 4; Totals: 11-43 19-32.
Three-Point Goals: Steubenville 4 (E. Masloski 2, Young 2)
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