St. C. rallies by Bellaire

• Bober, Busby, Starks combine for 58 in win

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Some things never change. Take the Bellaire-St. Clairsville boys’ high school basketball series.

The two Buckeye 8 rivals have been playing since 1937 and Tuesday night’s contest on John Jenkins Court was the 132nd in the storied rivalry, with the Big Reds holding a commanding 90-41 advantage all-time.

However, the last time Bellaire won came was nearly eight years ago — Jan. 23, 2010, to be precise — a stretch of 17 straight contests. Make that 18 now.

The Red Devils’ talented backcourt of Jayden Starks and Matthew Busby combined for 45 points and Craig Bober returned from an injury with a double-double as the hosts posted a 76-68 come-from-behind victory in Buckeye 8 action.

It was Busby (10) and Bober (8) who sparked a second-quarter rally.

“They had a really good quarter there,” veteran St. Clairsville (7-3) head coach Kim Clifford said of Busby and Bober who combined for 18 of the Red Devils 24 points, “but Jayden (Starks) had a great game. He did a little bit of everything. He defended and scored a bunch of points.”

Indeed he did. The cat-quick 5-8 senior didn’t score a point in the pivotal second quarter, but his play on defense and with the ball was the difference as he logged five steals for the game to go along with four steals and a career-high 23 points.

Busby finished with 22 points, five rebounds and four assists, while Bober, who re-injured his right knee Friday in a loss to Harrison Central and missed Saturday’s game with Claymont, added 13 points and 11 rebounds before tweaking the knee again with 6:15 left to play. He did not return as the Red Devils were in control.

“We were hit-and-miss tonight. We’d score in spurts … spurtability if you will,” Clifford assessed. “We weren’t consistent for four quarters, but I give Bellaire credit. They did a nice job and (Chase) Yoho was real steady for them.”

The Big Reds came out on fire in the first quarter as Yoho netted 11 of his game-best 32. Jacob Marthaler added six and Cole Runyan five as the visitors led for more than half the quarter. Five quick points by Yoho and a three-point basket from Runyan gave Bellaire a 32-22 lead with a little over four minutes left in the half.

That’s when St. Clairsville made its move. Bober and Busby each connected before Gabe Rejonis made it 34-26. Bober scored again before Justin Heatherington hit back-to-back baskets. Bober scored on the inside and was fouled, but missed the ensuing free throw. The hosts retained possession and Busby found Brett Vike cutting to the basket for a layup and a 36-34 lead. Busby’s NBA-range three before the buzzer made it 39-34 at the half.

“We shot ourselves in it and we shot ourselves out of it,” Bellaire first-year head coach Ben Doyle said. “I’m proud of my guys’ effort from buzzer-to-buzzer. Whenever you put in a good night’s effort, we can go back into the gym and keep up the process.”

Starks scored eight in the third quarter as the Red Devils held a 57-48 advantage.

Although St. Clairsville only meshed 22-of-40 free throws, it went 11 for 18 in the fourth quarter.

“I told the kids that we have to approach each game with the same attitude that it’s a big game,” Clifford noted. “I was pleased how we got away from them there, but we didn’t shoot free throws well. Some times you’ve just got to gut it out, and that’s what we did tonight. It’s not going to be pretty every night.”

The Red Devils led 40-32 off the glass behind Bober’s game-high. Yoho completed his double-double with 10 caroms, to go along with five assists and a trio of steals.

St. Clairsville travels to Martins Ferry Friday, while Bellaire hosts Union Local.

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