MARTINS FERRY - It was revenge week within the Buckeye 8 for Martins Ferry.
The Purple Riders avenged a loss to Edison in a decisive manner on Tuesday, but Friday's game against St. Clairsville was one the Purple Riders had been looking forward to for quite some time.
Actually, it dates back to Dec. 10 when the Riders opened the season with a thud, falling to the Red Devils for the 12th straight time by a 45-37 count.
MARTINS FERRY’S James Edwards looks to drive to the bucket as St. Clairsville’s Daniel Trouten defends during the first quarter of Friday’s game inside the Tolbert Gymnasium. The Purple Riders prevailed, 45-43. Additional images may be found at cu.timesleaderonline.com
It's been a roller coaster ride for the Riders (6-6) since then, but they're starting to climb upward and their cherished 45-43 victory inside the Tolbert Gymnasium may just put them over the top.
"I think as we're now more than halfway through the season, you just saw two teams that might be a difficult matchup for some teams in the tournament," said Ferry head coach Jeff Sabatino. "We did not play well at St. Clairsville at all. Actually, it was a very bad game and we set basketball back 20 years that opening game, but we played pretty well tonight and it was our turn."
The Riders got out of the gates well, grabbing a 10-2 lead after one. But St. Clairsville scratched and clawed its way back.
"It was back-and-forth and a battle like that, on an opponent's court, came down to one play," said St. Clairsville head coach Kim Clifford. "It just didn't work out in our favor."
After St. Clairsville made a run in the third quarter behind the hot shooting of senior Jared Derosa to take a 28-25 lead into the fourth, the Riders kicked up a notch.
However, each time it appeared Ferry was starting to pull away, St. C. made a play and got on a spurt itself.
Sandwiched between a Daniel Trouten trey, Martins Ferry senior Robert Vargo converted conventional three-point plays on back-to-back trips to put Ferry up, 40-35 with a shade over two minutes remaining.
The Red Devils scored five in a row to tie the game with 38 seconds to go. Capitalizing on a consecutive Rider turnovers and hardwork on the offensive glass, Brendan Ferns tallied from the line and freshman Michael Scarnecchia scored inside and knocked in two at the line.
"They've got some young players, who made some big plays (down the stretch)," Sabatino said. "Not only making the threes, but knocking down foul shots after we unceremoniously decided to foul. Both teams made plays and played fairly well down the stretch, but a lot of guys made a lot of big plays."
With the ball, the Riders elected to play it out.
"Vargo was hurting us so badly late in the game that we knew we had to take him away first," Clifford said. "We wanted to force someone else to make a play."
Junior point guard Jake Barritt found a driving lane and as he went up for the shot was fouled with 1.9 seconds showing on the clock.
He calmly went to the line and was perfect on the first. After Sabatino called a time out, Barritt meshed the second.
"I'll trust (Barritt) with the ball in his hands most times," Sabatino confessed. "He made a couple of errors in judgement, but, in the end, he had a short memory like you need to. He drove to the bucket the way you're supposed to, took the foul and went to the line and put them right down the heart."
St. Clairsville's last gasp was knocked away at halfcourt by the 6-ft-6 Vargo, setting off a wild celebration.
"I told our kids that I was more encouraged with how we played in a loss than I've been in some of our wins," Clifford said. "I thought we played well tonight. I thought Ferry played well tonight. Our ability to get stops when we had to have one and then to score the ball better in the second half were the encouraging parts."
Vargo was having a field day on the interior in the second half. He had a double-double in the third and fourth quarters, alone. He finished with 19 points and 14 rebounds.
"The last two plays (Vargo scored on), he caught the ball in traffic, he was able to take the bump and still make the shot," Sabatino said. "If we're going to give Scarnecchia credit for some heroics, Vargo at the other end deserves the same."
Sophomore James Edwards had a solid game on both ends of the floor. He scored 10 points. Arjay Burress finished with eight.
St. Clairsville, meanwhile, was paced by Scarnecchia's 14. Derosa added 11.
"As everyone is, we're still a work-in-progress," Clifford said. "We're getting better, and I am very encouraged with how we're playing right now."
The Riders don't get to enjoy the victory for too long. They'll visit Shadyside tonight.
St. Clairsville (7-5) returns home to face Edison on Tuesday.
The Red Devils managed a split with a 47-28 victory in the reserve encounter.
ST. CLAIRSVILLE (43) - Giffin 0, 2-2 2; Derosa 4, 0-2 11; Trouten 2, 0-0 6; Ferns 2, 1-2 5; Scarnecchia 4, 4-5 14; Coleman 0, 0-0 0; Buchanan 2, 0-0 5; Totals: 14, 7-11 43. MARTINS FERRY (45) - Edwards 5, 0-0 10; Appolloni 2, 0-0 4; Burress 3, 2-2 8; Barritt 1, 2-2 4; Vargo 8, 3-4 19; Bass 0, 0-0 0; Agnew 0, 0-0 0; Totals: 19, 7-8 45.
3-point goals: St. C. - Derosa (3), Trouten (2), Scarnecchia (2), Buchanan. MF - None.
St. C. - 2; 11; 15; 15 - 43
MF - 10; 8; 7; 20 - 45