Defense keys St. Clairsville triumph

T-L Photo/RICK THORP St. Clairsville’s Maria Vincenzo, left, shoots over Martins Ferry’s Richella Spielvogel during Thursday night’s game.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The girls’ basketball season is a marathon, not a sprint.

And while Thursday night’s 40-29 victory against Martins Ferry might not have earned St. Clairsville any style points from its head coach, Stacey Agnew was pleased with the effort and knows it will take his team a while to get its feet totally wet.

“You have to take the good with the bad,” he smiled after the Red Devils remained unbeaten on the young season with the Buckeye 8 triumph on John Jenkins Court.

“We’re 3-0 and we just keep getting a little bit better each time out.”

Katie Strama scored 12 points for the Red Devils on a night where offense was hard to come by for both squads.

Defense ruled the game, especially for St. C., whose press again figured heavily into its plans.

The Purple Riders were held to single digits in points in the first three quarters in dropping their second straight after opening the campaign with back-to-back victories. Head coach Paul Matuska said it was simply a case of not being able to handle what the Red Devils threw at them.

“We need to get better with the pressure,” he said. “The pressure killed us.

“We played good defense and that’s what we’ve been focusing on. We need to turn some of our focus to handling the ball against pressure.”

Especially early.

The game was tight in the early going, but Macy Malin scored five straight points as the Red Devils went up 14-4 with less than a minute left in the opening quarter.

St. Clairsville pushed the margin to double digits in the second, and a 7-2 run midway through the period made the score 25-9. Strama and Keri Klinkoski both scored four points during the spurt.

“We have three or four presses and we want to get a couple more,” Agnew said. “That will probably be our bread and butter.

“We just didn’t want their ‘big girl’ to get set up inside.”

Agnew was speaking of Richella Spielvogel, the Purple Riders’ 5-10 junior. The Red Devils kept her in check most of the night, holding her to seven points.

Really, though, St. C. kept the entire Ferry lineup in check, until the late going when the Purple Riders started to eat into their deficit, getting it to nine early in the fourth, 31-22, thanks to a Spielvogel 3-point play and Madison Ging layup. Ging paced Ferry with 10 points.

Klinkoski put the hosts back up 12, 36-24, moments later when she hit the back end of a double-bonus and a jumper.

“The offense will come around,” Agnew said. “We just have to keep playing hard and keep playing aggressive defense.”

St. C. returns to action Saturday afternoon with a matinee (3:30) home tip vs. Monroe Central. Martins Ferry welcomes Indian Creek in a contest that’s slated to begin a few hours later.