The night before playing his final game on John Jenkins Court, St. Clairsville senior standout Dan Monteroso dreamed he lit the scoreboard up for a career-high 55 points.
Even though the 6-3 all-stater fell a little short of that lofty mark Tuesday night, he did tally 37 counters - 5 shy of his career-best - in leading the top-seeded Red Devils to a 76-48 triumph over short-handed Martins Ferry in a Wheeling Hospital OVAC Class 4-A semifinal on the hilltop in Belmont County.
"This game meant a lot. It's been a great year. It's been a great four years with these guys," Monteroso revealed. "Everything the coaching staff has done for us has been outstanding.
MARTINS FERRY’S Emilio Appolloni looks for a teammate Tuesday night while St. Clairsville’s Jerrid Marhefka (1) and Dan Monteroso (5) apply the defensive pressure. The Red Devils won, 76-48.
"It's nice to go out with a win on this court," he continued. "This isn't probably good to say, but I didn't think much about school (Tuesday). I knew tonight was going to be a special night. Senior night last week was special, but I knew it wasn't the last game here.
"It's tough to realize that we've played our final game on this court, but I'm glad to have done it with this group of guys," he said in referring to his group senior classmates.
With the win, state-ranked St. Clairsville (19-2) will meet No. 2 seeded Steubenville Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. for the title inside Ohio University Eastern's Health and Physical Education Building. Big Red prevented an all-Clifford final by beating Harrison Central, 77-41.
Veteran St. Clairsville head coach Kim Clifford had trouble keeping his composure when asked what it meant to watch this group of seniors play its final game on John Jenkins Court.
"It's tough," he said, choking back his emotions. "When you've got a connection with a group of guys like this, it goes deep. I've been with these kids in this gym for four or five years now.
"They're a tight group," he continued as the seniors posed for pictures with Clifford's wife, Penny. "It's a family thing. It's tough, but it's special, as well."
Behind the silky-smooth Monteroso, the Red Devils took control early and never looked back in reaching the championship game for the third straight season. They are 1-1, winning last year over East Liverpool.
Monteroso scored 17 points in the first eight minutes as the hosts grabbed a 22-11 advantage. He then tacked on 14 more to account for all but 20 of his team's points in a 51-25 halftime margin.
"Dan came out focused tonight," Clifford noted. "We said 'the standard is a standard,' something that the (Pittsburgh) Steelers use. We knew they (Ferry) were a little short-handed, but we wanted to make sure we came out and did what we had to do."
In addition to Monteroso's game-high effort, Jerrid Marhefka knocked down a dozen lightings. Adam Jeffries and Dylan Campbell evenly split 14.
Martins Ferry (9-8), which played with seniors Cody Schau and Tyler Strama, was led by bullish junior Robert Vargo. The 6-5 banger scored 21 points and yanked down a game-high 16 rebounds. Freshman Emilio Appolloni donated 10 points. Jake Barritt added seven.
Monteroso also grabbed six rebounds, as did Jay Gossett as both teams landed 33. Monteroso also added four assists, three blocked shots and a pair of steals.
"I've never been prouder of a team that got beat by 28 points," veteran Martins Ferry head coach Jeff Sabatino admitted. "We played with no seniors. We started two freshmen, two sophomores and a junior, and for the most part, I felt they played as well as they were capable.
"We just ran into one of the greatest players I've ever coached against, playing one of the greatest games he's ever played," Sabatino said of Monteroso. "That first half was unbelievable. What we're we going to do? We were in awe.
"Maybe we can get healed up a little and get ready for the postseason," he added. "We get a pretty good player back in Cody. I like where we are sitting because these kids that played tonight showed that they can play a little."
St. Clairsville only turned the ball over five times, four of those coming in the fourth quarter long after the five senior starters - injured Riley Carlton (ankle) checked in at the quarter break - had taken their final curtain call, which came a mere two ticks into the fourth quarter. They walked off the floor arm-in-arm to a well-deserved standing ovation.
Martins Ferry travels to Cadiz Friday night to meet Harrison Central in the third-place game.
The Purple Riders avoided a sweep by claiming a thrilling victory in the JV game. They are now 10-6.
MARTINS FERRY (48) - Vargo 9 3-4 21; Barritt 3 0-0 7; Appolloni 5 0-0 10; Sears 2 0-0 5; A. Burress 1 0-2 1; Agnew 0 0-0 0; D. Schau 0 0-0 0; Edwards 0 0-0 0; J. Burress 0 0-2 0; Barbour 1 0-0 2; Rine 0 1-2 1; J. Shane 0 0-1 0; Totals: 21-51 4-11. ST. CLAIRSVILLE (76) - D. Monteroso 12 10-12 37; Jeffries 3 0-0 7; Giffin 1 0-0 2; Marhefka 5 0-0 12; Campbell 2 1-2 7; Coleman 0 0-0 0; Burghy 0 0-0 0; Derosa 0 0-0 0; Keylor 1 4-4 6; Gossett 0 0-0 0; Carlton 0 0-0 0; Hothem 0 0-0 0; Trouten 1 0-0 2; M. Monteroso 0 1-2 1; Panepucci 1 0-0 2; Totals: 26-51 16-20.
Three-Point Goals: Martins Ferry 2 (Barritt, Sears); St. Clairsville 8 (D. Monteroso 3, Marhefka 2, Campbell 2, Jeffries)
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