River hands Bridgeport its first loss

River’s revenge tour continued Monday night in Bridgeport in a matchup of OVAC leaders.

The Lady Pilots (14-3) avenged an earlier loss to the Bulldogs by a 55-41 count before a huge, and boisterous, crowd inside the John J. Havlicek Gymnasium. They had also knocked off Fort Frye after suffering a loss in their first meeting.

In the process last night, River, which sits atop the OVAC Class 3-A standings, ended state-ranked Bridgeport’s unbeaten streak at 12. The Bulldogs, who lead Class 2-A, had claimed a hard-fought, 44-42, victory last month in Hannibal.

“We’ve got two down and one to go,” River head coach Rick Isaly said of the paybacks. “But we’ve got three other games in there. We can’t look ahead to the Shadyside game. We’ve got St. Clairsville, Caldwell and Shenandoah, yet.”

The Pilots navigated their way to a 11-4 advantage after one period as freshman sensation Jensen Caretti set the tone early with six of her game-leading 22 markers.

Behind four quick points by the 6-foot, spaghetti-thin 15-year-old and a bucket by senior Laken Ramsay bumped the margin to 10, 17-7, early in the second quarter.

Following a Bridgeport timeout, the Bulldogs went on their only sustained offensive surge of the game. A 11-point run, fueled by junior Nicole Smolenak’s seven points, pulled the hosts back into the game.

Senior Brittany Higgenbotham’s basket in the paint gave the Bulldogs an 18-17 edge with 4:14 left in the half, but River scored eight of the final 12 points to lead 27-22 at the half.

“That’s the only time we had the lead. That’s a good team and we got lucky beating them down there,” Bridgeport head coach Rob Zitzelsberger said. “We were out of sync for most of the night, and their pressure defense had a lot to do with that. Everything they did hurt us.”

An eight-point spurt to start the third quarter made it a 13-point game, and Bridgeport would get no closer than six the remainder of the contest.

Caretti evenly spaced her 22 counters, scoring four in the second period and six each in the third and fourth panels. She was 10 of 14 from the floor, pulled down a game-best 14 rebounds, handed out four assists and charted three steals.

“Jensen is a player,” Isaly said with a huge smile. “She really played well tonight.”

She was backed by Ramsay’s 16 lightings. Cassidy McCullough chipped in a dozen points. Ramsay and McCullough evenly divided 12 rebounds, while Emilee Weaver grabbed seven and Haylee Bowers five despite missing most of the second quarter with foul trouble.

River shot 50 percent from the floor (23-46). The Pilots led 45-35 off the glass and had five more turnovers at 20-15.

Smolenak, who picked up two very quick fouls but didn’t record another, and Murad each had 13 points. Caitlyn Kroll added 11. Kroll also collected 10 rebounds.

Bridgeport shot a miserable 17-for-59 (28.8%) from the floor, while misfiring on 9 of 16 free throws.

“We set our goals before the season started,” Isaly admitted. “We wanted to win the PVC, the OVAC and go as far as we can in the sectional. If we can beat Caldwell and Shenandoah, that would give us a share of the PVC with Fort Frye. That might not mean a lot to a lot of people, but it does to us because we’ve never been in a situation like that.”

Bridgeport doesn’t have any time to sit around and mope about the tough setback as it is back in action tonight at Toronto. The Bulldogs also host Cameron Friday in a makeup game.

“Call it nervousness or what. It’s over and we need to put it behind us and move forward,” the Bulldogs’ coach explained.

River won the JV game.

RIVER (55) – Lak. Ramsay 7 2-5 16; Weaver 0 2-3 2; McCullough 5 2-2 12; Bowers 1 1-4 3; Caretti 10 2-2 22; Lan. Ramsay 0 0-0 0; Young 0 0-0 0; Jones 0 0-0 0; Totals: 23-46 9-16. BRIDGEPORT (41) – Smolenak 4 4-5 13; Murad 6 0-0 13; Kroll 5 1-5 11; Benda 0 0-3 0; Higgenbotham 1 0-0 2; Massey 1 0-0 2; Renzler 0 0-0 0; Millard 0 0-0 0; Totals: 17-59 5-13.

Three-Point Goals: Bridgeport 2 (Murad, Smolenak)