Dealing with adversity is defining time for Bulldogs
How a team deals with adversity usually goes a long way in defining just what kind of team it is.
Until this past Saturday night, the Bridgeport Lady Bulldogs had been on a fairly smooth ride during the basketball season, racking up victory after victory.
However, after losing to Frontier in the OVAC Class 2A final Saturday night, how will the Lady Bulldogs bounce back?
That’s the question that Rob Zitzelsberger and his players face today as they conclude their regular season with a make-up game at Barnesville before beginning Division IV sectional play at Claymont High School later this week.
The Lady Bulldogs’ loss to Frontier was tough and stunning for many. Bridgeport was 20-0, ranked third in Ohio’s Division IV state poll and heavily favored to win its first conference title since 1982.
Unfortunately for Bridgeport, Frontier wasn’t a bit fazed by any of that and never trailed and scored with 4.6 seconds to go to beat the Lady Bulldogs.
While the loss clearly took a toll on the Lady Bulldogs, the fact that there’s more season to go and a chance to avenge the loss could happen next week is definitely a rallying point for Bridgeport.
Having said that, whether or not Bridgeport can shake off Saturday night will be the biggest key.
“This one hurts,” Zitzelsberger said in the post-game press conference. “We wanted to hang a banner, but we won’t get a chance to do that with this team. We have to now show some character and pick ourselves up off the floor. We lost and we’re taking it hard, but we have to come back and play hard.”
Bridgeport has the talent and ability to make a decent run in the postseason. The Lady Bulldogs will have to have their minds right.
Something tells me they’ll be ready to go tonight and on Wednesday against Beallsville. With Zitzlesberger and senior leaders Nicole Smolenak and Maclaine Murad leading the way, Bridgeport will bounce back.
It’s kind of hard to believe, but four of the five winners on Saturday hoisted the championship trophy for the first time in their school’s history.
The championships for Harrison Central, Parkersburg South and Frontier are still certainly being enjoyed, while the celebration for the crown that Linsly won may not end for quite a while.
Obviously, the other schools have tournament play in their respective state to look forward to, but the Cadets don’t have that luxury. Saturday’s double OT win against Fort Frye for the Class 3A title is as good as it gets.
Linsly is a quality basketball team. The Cadets have skill, athleticism and size at all five spots. Plus, they’re young. Don’t think this is a one-time shot for Coach Erica Hall’s squad.
Morgan Brunner, Vivian Allison and Jazzy Orth are all talented underclassmen.
Linsly is the alma mater of the OVAC’s greatest female basketball player – Ashley Battle. Before going on to star on national championship teams at Connecticut, Battle was lighting it up in Wheeling. Her senior year, Linsly finished 19-1 and didn’t win the OVAC. It’s amazing that she never won a conference title during her prep years.
ALL OVAC GIRLS TOURNAMENT TEAM
As I was sitting back reflecting on the five championship games, there were a bunch of impressive performances both in wins and losses on Saturday.
My personal all-tournament team consists of Parkersburg South’s Taryn McCutcheon, Linsly’s Morgan Brunner, Conotton Valley’s Olivia Bower, Harrison Central’s Kara Dunfee, Bridgeport’s Maclaine Murad, Frontier’s Kelsea Daugherty and Steubenville’s Emiley Masloski.
All of these girls had big games on Saturday. Murad surpassed the 1,000-point mark for her career during the Lady Bulldogs’ 2A game.
The Wheeling Hospital OVAC Boys Basketball Championship begins on Tuesday and it appears Mother Nature should allow all of the semifinal games to be played … thankfully.
The Class 4A and 3A tournaments are going to be extremely interesting. Top-seeded Union Local and second-seeded Steubenville lead the way. The Jets are the top-ranked team in the state of Ohio in Division III, but the status of sophomore point guard Kaleb McDiffitt remains unknown. He was injured in last Thursday’s game against Bellaire.
In Class 3A, it’s a very wide open event. Fort Frye hosts fourth-seeded Linsly and second-seeded Monroe Central welcomes Steubenville Catholic. If the travel the lower seeds face wasn’t factored in, I’m not sure there would be a favorite in the semifinals.
Another semifinal to keep an eye on is Caldwell at Wheeling Central. Both are quality clubs.
The drawings for the tournament were held Sunday afternoon at Cambridge High School. As we saw with the girls’ pairings, there were certainly some interesting pairings at interesting sites.
For instance, in Division IV, Shadyside and Bridgeport will meet in the first round. That game isn’t that hard to fathom, but the fact that two schools five or so miles a part will travel to New Philadelphia to play is tough to buy.
Another example is in Division II where Indian Creek and Carrollton will trek to Zanesville High School to play one another.
I am a big proponent of the super sectional format, but playing games on the home court of the higher seed for the first round is a better option than neutral sites.
Many other districts around Ohio have gone to that format. But, many other districts went to the super sectional format years ago, too.
The complete list of pairings can be found on Page B4.
Staskey can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org