ST. CLAIRSVILLE -- Coaches expect their standout players to come up big in big games.
St. Clairsville's Dan Monteroso was nothing short of gigantic Saturday afternoon at Ohio University Eastern.
The Purdue University football signee was simply sensational in helping the Red Devils complete a successful trilogy against athletic and talented Steubenville. Monteroso poured in a career-high 45 points as St. C. captured the Division II sectional co-final title with a workmanlike 76-59 triumph over the Big Red.
ST. C’S DAN Monteroso trims down the final cords of the net after the Red Devils won the Division II sectional title against Steubenville Saturday afternoon at Ohio University Eastern.
The victory was the 21st in 23 starts for Kim Clifford's savvy and battled-tested charges and propels the Red Devils into Thursday's district rematch against Carrollton at OUE. The Devils bounced the Warriors a year ago at the same venue.
"Anyone who doesn't think Dan is the district player of the year needs to watch today's film," Clifford said.
Monteroso did much of his damage at the charity stripe, converting 16-of-19 free throws, many which kept the Big Red at bay in the second half, as did his 14 fourth-quarter points.
St. C., which defeated the Big Red by four in the OVAC title tilt two weeks ago, found itself down 16-12 midway through the second period. St. Clairsville took the lead for good via a 16-4 run to close the half, including a 10-0 spurt at one juncture. Monteroso fueled the run with 13 tallies.
Steubenville never regained the lead but hung around until the fourth period. Big Red stayed in striking distance throughout the third period, trailing by seven (40-47) entering the final stanza.
Big Red inched to within four at 51-47 on a Malik Young hoop with 6:02 remaining in the game. Steubenville Coach Mike Haney watched as the Red Devils methodically pulled away over the balance of the game.
Six straight St. Clairsville free throws (four by Monteroso and two by Jerrid Marhefka) quickly ballooned the lead to 10. Seconds later, Haney was assessed a technical. It proved the final straw.
After Monteroso drained two more free throws courtesy of the technical, St. C. senior sharpshooter Dylan Campbell delivered the dagger, burying the first of his two treys in the fourth period, bumping the Red Devils' upperhand to 62-47.
Steubenville never recovered.
"Our kids came focused and ready to play. We knew what to expect after the OVAC game. Steubenville is a quality team and our kids realized the challenge they present," Clifford said. "Our practices were super leading up to this game. We understood the importance of every possession.
"Steubenville is a physical team that likes to pressure, so we knew we had to be strong with the ball and that we would be shooting free throws, and we did a good job of converting at the foul line," he added. "Dan was Dan, but our other starters also stepped up with strong efforts and did what was expected of them. Dylan and Jared (Burghy) gave us great minutes off the bench."
The three losses to St. Clairsville dampened an otherwise sparkling season for Steubenville. The Big Red closed out at 17-7.
"Monteroso is a very, very good basketball player. He has very nice body control. Forty-five points just shows how talented he is," Haney said. "We missed some easy shots early on that could have really helped. We got to the rim well, but just didn't finish.
"In the third quarter, we found ourselves settling for taking threes which bogged down our offense," he continued. "The one thing I am mad about is that we do not have practice Monday. I really enjoyed this bunch. They worked hard every day in practice and in every game. Their effort was super all season. Our seniors provided us with great leadership."
Steubenville placed a trio of performers in double figures, topped by Tajuan Lawson's 17 counters. Young was next with 14 while dynamic senior point guard Periogn West contributed 12 points and boundless energy.
Monteroso's chief scoring support came from Campbell and sweet-shooting Adam Jeffries, each netting nine points. Marhefka and fellow senior Riley Carlton chipped in with six and four points, respectively, while both doing yeoman's work on the defensive end and on the boards, as did junior post Joel Giffin.
St. Clairsville was guilty of 22 turnovers. Big Red committed 12.
Clifford expects a formidable challenge in Carrollton.
"They have everyone back from last year's team. They have a big post inside who is going to Akron on a football scholarship," Clifford noted. "They also have some perimeter players who can knock down shots. We will have our hands full."
STEUBENVILLE (59) - Sterling 0, 1-2 1; Herring-Hill 4, 0-0 8; Young 6, 2-3 14; Linn 1, 1-2 4; Lawson 6, 5-6 17; West 3, 6-8 12; Smith 1, 0-0 3; 21, 15-21. ST. CLAIRSVILLE (76) - Monteroso 14, 16-19 45; Marhefka 1, 4-4 6; Carlton 1 2-2 4; Giffen 0, 0-2 0; Jeffries 4, 1-2 9; Campbell 3, 1-2 9; Burghy 1, 0-0 3. Totals 24, 24-31.
Three-point goals: Steubenville (2) - Linn (1), Smith (1); St. Clairsville (4) - Monteroso (1), Campbell (2), Burghy (1).