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Sweet 16 for Jets

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — All Stacey Agnew could do was grin and bear it.

The veteran St. Clairsville girls’ basketball head coach knew what his team was up against when unbeaten Union Local came walking onto John Jenkins Court, winners of their first 15 games, including a 19-point victory against his squad a month ago inside “The Hangar.”

Agnew knew his team had to start strong and keep mistakes to a minimum. That lasted almost a half before the Jets became too much.

Union Local exploded for nine straight points during the last 1:30 of the first half and turned a dwindling 10-point cushion into a commanding 19-point bulge. The run set the stage for a 77-46 triumph that left Agnew shaking his head in awe.

“They’re good,” he smiled as he excited his office postgame. “They’re just too good and too skilled. You just can’t leave them open.”

And, you can’t leave them an opening because, as UL’s first 15 opponents have discovered, a crease is just enough to allow the Jets to break things wide open.

“We threw up three shots and they got nine points out of it,” Agnew reviewed. “If you’re down 10 at halftime, it’s a little different. But that was big. I thought it was a turning point in the game. You battle hard to get it there and in the blink of an eye they score nine.”

The Red Devils started strong behind a pair of 3s from Alexis Thoburn, who finished with four on the night en route to a team-high 21 points.

UL quickly recovered, however, behind the inside power of freshman Reagan Vinskovich, who scored 13 of her game-best 24 in the first, including a layup that stretched the Jets’ lead to 22-12 midway through the second.

“She’s a workhorse,” Jets head coach Rob Barr exclaimed.

Still, St. C. hung tough, not allowing the Jets to expand on its lead thanks to Katie Strama (12 points), who’s gritty play kept it a 10-point contest.

That was until the first-half clock started to wind down.

Vinskovich’s putback with 1:17 left made the score 37-25. Then, the Red Devils shot too quickly for Agnew’s liking on their ensuing possession, allowing the Jets to race back down. Keira Gregor was the beneficiary as her 3-point play of her own offensive board put UL up 15.

Seconds later, following a St. C. turnover, Hannah Merritt dropped in a layup off a nifty feed from Vinskovich pushing the lead to 17. Then, Torre Kildow blocked a St. C. shot, grabbed the ball and raced in for a layup as the half neared its conclusion. She finished with 21 points.

“They’re gamers,” Jets head coach Rod Barr said. “When the game’s on the line they can put a run together. We’ll have three or four runs a game where we’ll score 14 points or so to put a game away.

“I think that’s a product of how we run the ball down the floor. If you keep putting that kind of pressure on the other team where they have to get back time after time after time, good things are going to happen. Things start to loosen up.”

The Jets return to action next Thursday at Barnesville. St. Clairsville (8-6), still in the thick of the OVAC 4A tournament chase, is back in action Monday at John Marshall.

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