CONNORVILLE - Despite a 15-point victory by his team, Martins Ferry head coach Jeff Sabatino was not a happy camper Monday night.
The veteran Purple Riders' bench boss had just watched his squad post a methodical, 68-53, triumph over homestanding Buckeye Local, but he was disappointed in their defense, especially late in the game.
"Honestly, I wasn't happy with our defense the whole game," Sabatino admitted. "This was our worst defensive effort of the season. I think I can accurately say that. I didn't think we stopped anything they were trying to do. I just thought when we stopped them it was because they missed shots.
T-L Photo/KIM NORTH
BUCKEYE LOCAL’S Brennan Czuchran (4) dribbles the ball up the floor Monday night as Martins Ferry’s Arjay Burress (3) applies pressure in Connorville. The Purple Riders won, 68-53.
"I was very disappointed with our defense tonight, and for the most part, we've played outstanding defense for the year," Sabatino continued. "I have no rhyme or reason for it. I just think we played poorly defensively."
Unfortunately for the Panthers (4-12) and first-year head coach Greg Haberfield, they missed plenty of shots as they connected on a mere 19 of 61 attempts. Included in that was a horrendous 3-for-18 showing in the third quarter when Martins Ferry (9-7) sealed the deal.
"I thought those woes were behind us," Haberfield said of the Panthers' poor shooting numbers. "We came out flat again in the second half. In the first half, we did a good job of not letting their inside game hurt us, but then they knocked down a couple of threes which was kind of discerning.
"They just made the plays down the stretch and we didn't," he added. "That's how the game went tonight."
Leading 29-25 after a back-and-forth first half that saw the Buckeye 8 rivals exchange the lead a whopping 11 times. They were also deadlocked five, the last at 25 before the Purple Gang scored the final four points of the half.
A three-point play by Buckeye Local's Devan Pyciak to start the third quarter drew the hosts to within 29-28, but a 22-4 run by Martins Ferry put the game out of reach.
Cat-quick junior point guard Jake Barritt led the surge with seven of his 19 points. He also handed out seven assists and charted three steals. Sophomore Kylil Bass came off the bench and immediately produced with six points and five rebounds.
"We put him in an unusual spot for him," Sabatino said of the 5-11 Bass. "We put him in the post and he delivered. I just had a hunch he would."
Martins Ferry built the margin to 25, 57-32, early in the final quarter, but Buckeye Local's Dylan Dokes dialed long distance three straight times. Brennan Czuchran's trifecta with 2:17 remaining cut the deficit to 14, 64-50, but that would be as close as they would get.
Robert Vargo, Ferry's 6-6 mountain underneath, worked the paint for 23 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. James Edwards contributed 13 points while dishing out three assists. Sophomore Emilio Appolloni had six points, six assists, a like number of rebounds and five blocked shots.
Dokes led all scorers in the game with 25 points. He tallied 13 in the fourth quarter. Czuchran chipped in 16, but none of the other five Panthers that saw action had more than five.
The taller Purple Riders held a 42-28 advantage off the glass. They also turned the ball two more times at 9-7.
Both teams are back in action tonight as Martins Ferry welcomes Indian Creek and Buckeye Local travels to Bellaire.
The Purple Riders made it a clean sweep with a convincing victory in the JV game.
MARTINS FERRY (68) - Vargo 11 1-1 23; Barritt 7 3-3 19; Edwards 6 0-0 13; Appolloni 2 2-2 6; Burress 0 1-2 1; Agnew 0 0-0 0; Bass 3 0-0 6; Totals: 29-55 7-8. BUCKEYE LOCAL (53) - Czuchran 6 0-0 16; Borkoski 1 0-0 2; Dokes 9 2-3 25; Pyciak 1 1-1 3; Donahue 2 0-0 5; Moffo 0 2-2 2; Beall 0 0-0 0; Totals: 19-61 5-6.
Three-Point Goals: 3 (Barritt 2, Edwards); Buckeye Local 10 (Dokes 5, Czuchran 4, Donahue)