ST. CLAIRSVILLE - The homestanding St. Clairsville Lady Red Devils just missed a berth in the Wheeling Hospital OVAC Girls Basketball Tournament last season after falling to eventual Class 4A runnerup Martins Ferry in their final game prior to the cutoff.
The Lady Devils wasted little time in demonstrating there'd be no repeat performance.
Scoring 23 of the game's first 25 points, the Lady Devils assumed control early and never looked back en route to a 57-34 victory on Monday
ST. CLAIRSVILLE'S Alexis St. Clair goes up for a shot against Martins Ferry's Tyrah King during the first quarter of Monday's game in St. Clairsville. The Lady Red Devils rolled to victory and clinched the Buckeye 8 title with the win. Additional images may be found at cu.timesleaderonline.com
"We'd been off for two days (because of the weather), but the girls were really focused and ready to play," said St. C. head coach Alicia Freeman. "I am not even sure (the girls) really knew what this game meant because we only talk about taking it one game at a time."
The official pairings were released this morning. The Lady Red Devils (13-6) are the third seed in 4A with a trip to Harrison Central next Monday in the semifinals of the OVAC Tourney on the horizon.
"It feels good to be in (the top four)," Freeman said. "We've had two really good games with Harrison Central and I guarantee both teams will be ready."
The berth in the OVAC Tournament wasn't the only reason to celebrate for the Lady Red Devils. They also wrapped up the Buckeye 8 title.
Freeman didn't even know the Lady Devils had the opportunity to wrap up the Buckeye 8 title until she got an email on Monday morning.
"That was one of our goals," Freeman said. "It's exciting to win the league. We have two more goals we want to fulfill and we're going after those next."
Before any thought could be given to the OVAC, St. C. had to take care of its business. Fittingly, its seniors - Brigee Mick, Carlee Gillespie and Lauren Figura - led the way on what might have been their final game on John Jenkins Court.
"Those three seniors are great girls," Freeman said. "They really set the tone for the team, they work hard, go non-stop and do the little things well. They've led us all season."
After Martins Ferry freshman Sydney Bridges tallied the game's opening bucket, the Lady Devils seized control.
Mick cashed three, 3-pointers, senior Carlee Gillespie scored seven and was extremely pesky on defense, while Figura recorded two buckets to spark the Lady Devils to a 26-4 lead after one period.
"We have to use our defense to create our offense and we came out in the first couple of minutes and played pretty well defensively, but they got on a run when three purple jerseys stood around and watched a loose ball roll around on the floor," said Ferry head coach Lindsay Coyne. "We have to do the little things."
The Lady Devils led 35-14 at the half and proceeded to score the first 13 of the third quarter before sophomore Tyrah King tallied with 2:11 to play in the third.
As they've done basically all season, the Lady Riders didn't quit. Thanks to the energy from Daleitha Johnson, who scored nine points and had four steals.
"Our girls have to know that no matter how you're playing on offense, you can always play great defense," Coyne said.
The Lady Devils were led by Gillespie, who was a standout on both ends. She scored 19 points and had six steals. Hard-working junior Alexis St. Clair scored 11 points, including nine in the third quarter. Sophomore Anna DeFilippo netted eight.
Martins Ferry (4-13) was paced by King's double-double. She scored 13 points and grabbed 10 boards.
No reserve game was contested.
MARTINS FERRY (34) - Stalder 1, 2-4 4; Coleman 2, 0-0 5; King 6, 0-2 13; Bridges 1, 0-0 2; Monroe 0, 0-0 0; Johnson 4, 0-1 8; Martin 0, 0-0 0; Sutton 1, 0-0 2; Ray 0, 0-0 0; Skavarka 0, 0-0 0; Totals: 15, 2-7 32. ST. CLAIRSVILLE (57) - Mick 3, 0-0 9; Gillespie 8, 1-4 19; Figura 2, 0-0 4; St. Clair 4, 3-3 11; Cenkus 1, 0-0 2; DeFillipo 4, 0-1 9; Westlake 0, 0-0 0; Sliva 2, 0-0 4; DeNoble 0, 0-0 0; Lewis 0, 0-0 0; Totals: 24, 4-8 57.
3-point goals: MF - Coleman, King. St. C. - Mick (3), Gillespie (2).