Bridgeport girls breeze

Test No. 2 for the Bridgeport girls’ basketball team was a breeze Wednesday night.

Playing before a boisterous crowd inside the John J. Havlicek Gymnasium, the Lady Bulldogs roared away from visiting a streaking St. Clairsville squad midway through the first quarter and were never threatened in a 52-28 rout.

With the victory, Rob Zitzelsberger’s quint moves to 8-0 and hosts Cameron Saturday.

“We played pretty well tonight. That’s not a bad team,” he said of St. Clairsville. “I’m proud of my girls.”

Trailing 9-4 with 5:30 left on the first-quarter clock, Bridgeport reeled off 12 of the final 14 points of the period to take a 16-11 margin.

Freshman sensation Caitlyn Kroll led the way early on with seven of her eight points.

An 8-3 scoring advantage to start the second period bumped the count to double digits, 24-14, and after the Red Devils (4-3) hit a bucket, the hosts rattled off the last seven points of the half for a commanding, 31-16, lead.

Junior point guard Nicole Smolenak and Maclaine Murad each meshed a pair of free throws before senior Kaitlyn Benda completed a hoop-and-harm down the stretch.

St. Clairsville, which saw its 4-game winning streak halted, continued to struggle from the field. On the heels of a miserable 5-for-24 performance in the first 16 minutes, things didn’t get any better after the half as head coach Alicia Freeman’s squad couldn’t have tossed a beach ball into the ocean while standing on the boardwalk.

The Red Devils finished a putrid 9-for-59 for the game, something that didn’t sit well with their head coach.

“When their team shoots 48 percent from the field and our team shoots 15 percent, that’s the difference in the ballgame,” she stressed. “That final score isn’t indicative of this game tonight. I think our girls played with a lot of heart.

“When you can’t get your shots to fall, that’s a big thing,” she said.

With Kroll in foul trouble, Smolenak took over in the final two periods. The 3-year starter ran the Bulldogs’ offense and came up huge at both ends of the floor, as did the unheralded Benda.

“Kaitlyn was our unsung hero again tonight,” Zitzelsberger allowed. “I don’t know how many rebounds she had, but she got in there and battled.”

The third-year head coach couldn’t come up with enough superlatives about the job Smolenak did.

“She’s our engine. She’s our gas,” he noted.

Smolenak led all scorers with 18 points. She completed her double-double with a game-best 13 rebounds. She was joined in twin figures by Murad with a dozen. Benda finished with six points and 10 boards. Kroll added eight counters, four assists and three blocked shots.

St. Clairsville was paced by Lauren Figura with 11 points. Brigee Mick had nine and a like number of rebounds.

The Red Devils are right back in action tonight when Martins Ferry travels to John Jenkins Court.

St. Clairsville won Wednesday’s JV game.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE (28) – Mick 3 1-2 9; Gillespie 0 0-0 0; St. Clair 3 0-2 6; Moulder 0 0-0 0; Figura 2 7-8 11; Avila 1 0-0 2; DeFillipo 0 0-0 0; Skukan 0 0-0 0; Cenkus 0 0-0 0; Miller 0 0-0 0; Totals: 9-59 8-12. BRIDGEPORT (52) – Kroll 2 4-6 8; Murad 4 4-5 12; Smolenak 5 6-8 18; Benda 2 2-4 6; Higgenbotham 1 0-0 2; Massey 1 2-4 4; Renzler 1 0-0 2; Millard 0 0-0 0; Totals: 16-43 18-27.

Three-Point Goals: St. Clairsville 2 (Mick 2); Bridgeport 2 (Smolenak 2)

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