ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Conotton Valley and Madonna advanced to the Wheeling Hospital OVAC Girls Basketball Championships Class 1-A title game in differing styles.
The defending champion, Ohio-ranked and top-seeded Rockets (18-0) cruised past No. 4 Paden City, 77-23, Thursday night in semifinal action in Bowerston, while the No. 2 seeded Blue Dons (10-7) outlasted No. 3 Trinity the same night, 39-38, in an overtime thriller in Weirton.
Tip-off for today's contest is slated for approximately 5:30 p.m. inside Ohio University Eastern's Health and Physical Education Building west of St. Clairsville. It will be the third or four games on the day.
Conotton Valley, which is ranked 7th in Division IV in the Buckeye State, defeated St. John Central 50-26 last winter for its second OVAC girls' title, the other coming in 1997.
Weirton Madonna, which was eliminated in last year's semifinals by the Irish, captured the 2011 crown.
Both teams rely on their inside and outside games offensively as the Rockets are paced by 6-foot junior forward/center Olivia Bower (inside) and senior 5-2 senior point guard Piper Edie (outside). Bower has eclipsed the 1,000-point mark already in her career.
Against the Wildcats, Bower and Edie both recorded double-doubles. Edie led the way with 22 points, including five three-point baskets which was one shy of the school record for a single game, and 12 assists. She also charted half-a-dozen steals. Bower, meanwhile scored 20 points, yanked down 14 rebounds and swatted away seven shots. Chandis Cottis finished with 14 markers. Taylor Russell, a 5-6 junior, also contributes.
"These girls are great, and the senior leadership from Piper and Brynlynn (Belknap) is solid," Conotton Valley head coach Chandra Myers said. "They give maximum effort every night and this team believes in themselves. We just have to keep working."
On the other end of the court, Weirton Madonna head coach Don Ogden knows his Blue Dons are in for a tough matchup, but that's why you play the games.
"Conotton Valley is very good," he noted. "They are undefeated and state ranked. The Bower girl is hard to stop inside and outside, while the Edie girl runs the show. Everything goes through her and she is dangerous from the outside."
As for his team, without a senior on the roster, is the trip to the championship game a little too soon.
"No, not for us," Ogden offered. "All of these girls played last year, so we are a veteran team, so to say. Making the OVAC is always a goal for us, and this year is no different.
"We've played well of late," he continued. "We've played with a lot of intensity and focus. We hope to continue that Saturday."
The Blue Dons are led by 5-11 sophomore Monica Bragg with a 14-point scoring norm. Rachel Grubbs, a 5-9 junior, adds nine points per outing. The other starters are all averaging somewhere between 3-5 points. They include 5-2 junior Cameron Dowiak, 5-6 sophomore Isabella Rosso and 5-6 sophomore Becca Holt. Katie Lammers, a 5-7 sophomore, and Aubrey Platek, a 5-6 junior, also see action off the bench.
In fact, it was Lammers who meshed a critical free throw in overtime that lifted the Blue Dons past Trinity. Bragg led the way with 13 points, 10 rebounds and two blocked shots.