The road has proven unkind to the Martins Ferry Purple Riders this season.
Coach Jeff Sabatino's youth-laden charges have suffered three tough-to-swallow setbacks away from home. Each of those reversals came after Martins Ferry owned fourth-quarter leads.
Friday night, the road took a more kind turn for the Purple Riders as they impressively bounced Bellaire, 73-51, in the House of Champions. The win was the second in five starts for Ferry.
MARTINS FERRY’S Emilio Appolloni goes up for one of his 11 rebounds. He had a triple-double in the game. Defending for Bellaire is Hunter Westlake. Martins Ferry prevailed, 73-51.
Bellaire, meanwhile, dropped to 1-3. Coach J.R. Battista's Reds are back in action today at Bridgeport in a 1 p.m. start.
Sabatino received huge contributions from a host of players, none more than senior star Robert Vargo and junior dynamo Jake Barritt.
Vargo, a 6-6 all-state defensive end, came up big in the paint, tallying a game-high 28 points to go with 15 rebounds.
Barritt, another Purple grid standout, ran the Riders' offenses near flawlessy. He poured in 18 points to go with his 10 assists.
Vargo and Barritt sealed the deal in the fourth quarter, each delivering 10 points.
"We have blown leads in all three of our losses. Tonight it was nice to extend our lead in the fourth quarter," Sabatino said. "I thought we played real well defensively.
"Our zone gave them trouble. Our guards were active up top while Robert and Emilio (Appolloni) gave Bellaire fits inside," he added. "Our defense enabled us to get out and run."
Appolloni, a 6-8 sophomore, enjoyed the best game of his young prep career, recording a triple-double. He had 10 points, 11 rebounds and 11 blocked shots.
Classmate James Edwards also produced a fine showing. The Purple sharpshooter netted nine points to go with his strong defensive showing.
"Their size and length gave us major problems," Battista said. "We made life easy for them at times, as well. We just threw the ball to them on occasion.
"It is the holiday season and we were definitely in a giving mood," he added. "We knew Ferry was better than its record."
Bellaire got stellar efforts from a pair of performers. Nathan Steele, a savvy and deft-shooting junior, drained a team-high 20 markers for the Big Reds. Multi-talented Michael Neil popped in 16 counters.
Bellaire rolled out of the gates quite nicely, moving to an 18-13 advantage at the quarter pole. Steele sparked the Reds' fast start with eight markers in the round.
Ferry took control on the strength of a superb second-quarter at both ends of the floor. The Purple Riders outscored the hosts, 22-7, in the chapter to grab a 35-25 halftime edge.
Vargo fueled the second-period run with seven points while Barritt and Edwards each tallied five.
Bellaire remained in striking distance after three quarters, trailing by nine at 48-39. Vargo's and Barritt's offensive explosions quickly quelled the Big Reds' comeback aspirations in the final stanza.
Bellaire committed 21 turnovers on the night. Ferry had 19 miscues.
"After the Edison and Harrison games this win is a nice confidence booster, because I think Bellaire is a good team," Sabatino said. "Now we have to get ready for another quality team in Shadyside."
The Purple Riders host the Tigers Monday.
fFerry made it a clean sweep on the night as Coach Ron Hill's Riders pocketed the jayvee nod.
MARTINS FERRY (73) -- Vargo 12, 4-7 28; Barritt 7, 3-4 18; Agnew 0 0-2 0; Appolloni 5, 0-0 10; Edwards 4, 0-1 9; Bass 1, 1-2 4; Burress 2, 0-0 4; Rine 0, 0-0 0; Shane 0, 0-0 0; Baire 0, 0-0 0; Barbour 0, 0-0 0. Totals 31, 8-16. BELLAIRE (51) -- Steele 7, 2-2 20; Ramsay 3, 2-2 8; Callarik 0, 0-0 0; Hess 2, 1-4 5; Neil 4, 6-7 16; Kimbro 0, 0-0 0; Westlake 0, 0-0 0; Back 0, 0-0 0; Kovalyk 0, 0-0 0; Hall 1, 0-0 2; Pickens 0, 0-0 0. Totals 17, 11-16.
Three-point goals: Martins Ferry -- Barritt (1), Edwards (1), Bass (1); Bellaire -- Steele (4), Neil (2).