Bridgeport girls cruise to 19th win

With the non-tournament portion of its regular season finished, Bridgeport girls’ basketball head coach Rob Zitzelsberger said his state-ranked squad needs to get focused on tournament time.

The Lady Bulldogs, who are ranked 7th in the latest Division IV poll, ran their record to an impressive 19-1 with a repeat, 55-37, victory over homestanding St. Clairsville Wednesday night on John Jenkins Court before a nice-sized crowd as the hosts celebrated Senior Night.

“It was a great regular season, and now we’re going after the OVAC and sectional,” Zitzelsberger said. “It’s time to get ready for the tournaments.”

Next up is the highly anticipated matchup with perennial OVAC and Division IV sectional power Shadyside, which drew the third seed in the upcoming Wheeling Hospital/OVAC Tournament. The Class 2-A semifinal will be contested Monday night inside what should be a jam-packed John J. Havlicek Gymnasium.

“We’re the No. 2 seed and we got a good pick,” he added. “I’m proud of the way the girls have responded this season.

“I think we’re where we should be at this point,” he continued. “I think we can compete.”

Despite not shooting well from the field (17-for-55 – 31 percent), the Black-clad visitors used their quickness inside to pound the boards en route to a 14-5 advantage after one quarter.

Freshman dandy Caitlyn Kroll tallied half of her team’s points in the initial quarter. She also pulled down five rebounds (four offensive) while senior Brittany Higgenbotham grabbed six of her game-best 14 caroms in the period.

More rebounding and some deadly free throw shooting combined to give Bridgeport a commanding, 37-14, bulge at the half. Junior Maclaine Murad netted 10 points in the second frame, while Kroll added six and Nicole Smolenak five.

A 10-7 scoring margin bumped the count to 47-21 after three stanzas as Bridgeport’s ‘Big 3’ teamed for all 10 counters.

St. Clairsville won the fourth quarter, 16-8, as Lauren Figura scored six of her team-high 11 down the stretch.

“We may have not played well tonight, but I’m proud of the way my girls battled all the way to the end,” St. Clairsville head coach Alicia Freeman allowed. “Sure it might have been Bridgeport’s second team, but I liked the way we played in the fourth quarter.

“We’re still a work in progress, but it’s the little things like that that will make us better down the road,” she added. “We’ll get back to work tomorrow and get ready for our OVAC game Monday.”

Kroll paced all scorers with a 17-point effort. She was backed by Murad with 16 and Smolenak with a dozen. Higgenbotham added six and Kaitlyn Benda four to round out the scoring.

“We didn’t shoot the ball very well tonight, but that’s what we’re going to see Monday night,” Zitzelsberger said. “St. Clairsville is very physical and so will be Shadyside.”

Murad and Kroll turned in double-doubles as they snagged 11 and 10 rebounds, respectively, as Bridgeport held a 47-25 advantage off the glass. Twenty-three of those boards were of the offensive variety. Alicia Avila led the Red Devils with half-a-dozen.

Both teams had 19 turnovers.

St. Clairsville won the JV game.

BRIDGEPORT (55) – Smolenak 2 8-10 12; Murad 7 0-1 16; Kroll 5 5-8 17; Benda 1 2-2 4; Higgenbotham 2 2-5 6; Massey 0 0-0 0; Renzler 0 0-0 0; Millard 0 0-0 0; Baker 0 0-0 0; Oszust 0 0-0 0; Totals: 17-55 17-26. ST. CLAIRSVILLE (37) – Skukan 2 0-0 4; Delguzzo 0 0-2 0; Avila 1 0-0 2; Moulder 3 0-0 6; Work 0 0-0 0; Mick 0 0-0 0; St. Clair 4 0-2 8; Gillespie 1 2-4 4; Figura 4 3-5 11; Cenkus 1 0-0 2; DeFillipo 0 0-0 0; Miller 0 0-0 0; Totals: 16-50 5-13.

Three-Point Goals: Bridgeport 4 (Kroll 2, Murad 2)

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