By SETH STASKEY
Times Leader Sports Editor
WOLFHURST – The Bridgeport girls’ basketball team hadn’t played a game since Dec. 28.
Judging by the first 10 minutes of Thursday night’s encounter with Barnesville, the Lady Bulldogs were itching to get back on the court.
Bridgeport raced to a 19-4 lead after one quarter and despite a scrappy effort from the Lady Shamrocks, the Lady Bulldogs finished off a 65-48 victory inside the John J. Havlicek Gymnasium.
“I don’t take any game for granted,” said Bridgeport head coach Rob Zitzelsberger. “I expect the girls to do what we do in practice, and I am pretty hard on them because the bullseye is on us.”
Zitzelsberger, who can’t complain too much seeing his team is state ranked and sitting at a perfect 13-0, wasn’t pleased with the intensity his team brought back to the court in the second half.
“The third quarter is usually our quarter, but we seemed to relax after halftime,” Zitzelsberger said. “We just played with them. We ran at their speed and did what they wanted us to do.”
Barnesville, which is now 6-5 on the season, actually trimmed what was once a 21-point deficit to 12 in the third quarter, but hard-working junior Briana Massey kissed home a short jumper just before the third-quarter horn to push the Lady Bulldogs’ lead back to 12 at 43-29.
“I can’t fault our kids effort because I thought we played hard from the tip to the very end,” said Barnesville head coach Jamie Carpenter. “We had a couple of lackadaisical possessions and you can’t afford those against a team as good as Bridgeport. We need to continue to improve our basketball mentality, but we’re young and we’re learning.”
Senior Maclaine Murad had another strong performance. Shooting the ball exceptionally well from behind the arc, Murad scored 11 points in the first half. She went on to finish with a game-high 18.
Classmate Nicole Smolenak did her normal work on both ends. She scored 11 points in the game, grabbed 11 rebounds, passed out four asissts and had four steals.
The Lady Bulldogs needed that production because Barnesville was able to bottle up talented sophomore Caitlin Kroll for the better part of three quarters. Kroll finished with 12 points, but she didn’t record her first points until there was 6:21 to go in the contest.
“If Caitlin gets her average, then this game is well out of hand, but you have to give Barnesville’s defense credit for how they played her,” Zitzelsberger. “Maclaine and Nicole played well and Bri did well inside. We know teams are going to try to take away (Kroll, Murad and Smolenak) as much as possible, but the other girls are stepping up.”
Barnesville never got the deficit under 15 in the fourth quarter.
“I don’t know if it’s innovative or not, but we came down here with a defense we call shadow,” Carpenter said. “We have three girls play man-to-man, one in the lane to shadow and one in the lane to rebound, which we didn’t do very well. Credit their other girls because they hit some shots.”
Massey turned in a solid effort with nine points and eight rebounds to complement the Lady Bulldogs’ big three.
Barnesville was paced by Sydney Ralston, who had 12 points. All of those came in the second half. Paige Huntsman added 10 points. Sophomore Shayla Markovich finished with eight points and a game-high 12 rebounds.
Bridgeport was charted for just 13 turnovers, which was four fewer than the Lady Shamrocks.
The Lady Bulldogs made it a sweep with a victory in the jayvee game.
BARNESVILLE (48) – Ralston 5, 1-1 12; Broomhall 1, 0-0 2; Huntsman 4, 0-0 10; Sleeth 1, 0-0 2; Plumly 3, 1-2 7; Hanlon 3, 1-1 7; Hannahs 0, 0-0 0; Markovich 2, 4-5 8; Totals: 19, 7-9 48. BRIDGEPORT (65) – Kroll 3, 4-4 12; B. Massey 3, 3-4 9; Murad 7, 0-0 18; Smolenak 4, 1-1 11; Millard 3, 0-0 6; Renzler 3, 0-0 7; Johnson 0, 2-2 2; Trouten 0, 0-0 0; Grimmett 0, 0-0 0; D. Massey 0, 0-0 0; Totals: 23, 10-11 65.
Three-Point Goals: Barnsville 3 (Ralston, Huntsman 2). Bridgeport 9 (Kroll 2, Murad 4, Smolenak 2, Renzler).
Staskey can be reached at email@example.com