Martins Ferry fights off Bellaire

 MARTINS FERRY — With the temperature flirting near zero outside, Martins Ferry used its decided height advantage to heat things up in Tolbert Gymnasium Friday night.

Rayquan Prayear and DeAndre Pugh pounded the paint for 33 points in leading the Purple Riders to a hard-earned 48-45 win over arch-rival Bellaire.

Prayear, a rugged 6-2 senior, came off the bench and poured in a team-high 19 counters while Pugh, a wide body 6-5 junior, added 14 tallies.

The win was just the second in eight starts for Derek Edwards’ charges. The Purple Riders have a quick turnaround as they welcome Shadyside tonight.

Bellaire dropped to 3-8. Ben Doyle’s charges pay a visit to St. Clairsville Tuesday.

“We have been waiting for Rayquan to have a game like this. He gave us a great boost off the bench. He was also super on the boards,” Edwards said. “DeAndre was also a force inside. Our size definitely gave them problems. But our size should give a lot of teams problems.”

  The loss spoiled another strong effort by the Big Reds’ Chase Yoho. The all-Ohio senior guard took game-scoring honors with 24 markers. Sophomore A.J. McCarthy was the only other Big Red to reach double figures, netting 10 points.

  “We are still searching for the right combination of players. We know Chase and Mason (Ramsay) are our foundation but we need some others to step up,” Doyle said. “We had some good looks against their zone but didn’t convert. Their size definitely gave use problems.

  “But this was a winnable game. We had our chances and didn’t take advantage of them,” he added. “We are now entering a real tough stretch. We have St. Clairsville, Union Local and Harrison Central in our next three games.”

  The two teams found themselves in a 38-all standoff after three periods. Pugh and Ramsay traded hoops before the Purple Riders ran off six straight, punctuated by a Pugh putback with 3:23 remaining, giving the hosts a 46-40 advantage.

   Bellaire sophomore Levi Littell slowed the surge with a free throw at the 1:27 lighting. After a Ferry turnover, Yoho meshed a charity toss to make it a 46-42 reading with 59.4 seconds to play.

   The Purple Riders misfired on the front end of a one-and-one 18 ticks later. Pugh, however, delivered a Big Reds’ backbreaking bucket with another putback goal.

  After a Bellaire misfire, Ferry again failed to convert at the free throw line. McCarthy subsequently buried a trey, drawing the  

visitors to within 48-45 with 18 seconds to play.

   The free throw line again proved unkind to the Purple, misfiring on the front end of another one-and-one with 16.6 seconds showing. Bellaire had two open looks at game-tying threes in the waning seconds but neither found the mark.

   “Our struggle down the stretch is a reflection of our youth and inexperience. It was a good learning experience for us,” Edwards said. “Our wins are going to be close wins. That is just the type of team we are right now.

   “We got nice production from Donovan (Shrodes) tonight and I was happy with our zone defense,” he added. “Chase is tough to defend. He is a scorer, but I thought our zone did a nice job.”

   Shrodes added nine points to the winning attack, including a pair of treys. Prayear and Pugh collected 12 and 11 rebounds, respectively.

  Bellaire led 12-9 after one quarter before the Purple Riders rallied for a 26-25 halftime edge.

   Bellaire salvaged a split by taking the reserve encounter.