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Monroe advances to Div.-IV district title game

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – It is said that defense wins championships. It certainly helped propel Monroe Central to the Division IV district title game.

The No. 4-seeded Seminoles trailed No. 9-seeded Zanesville Bishop Rosecrans, 29-27, at halftime Wednesday night at St. Clairsville. Coach Troy Baker’s well-drilled charges, however, ramped up their defense after intermission, yielding just nine points to the Bishops en route to a impressive 57-38 triumph on John Jenkins Court.

“We felt like we may have some matchup problems with our man defense. We wanted to try and sit in a zone and keep an eye on their two better scorers,” Baker said. “But we lost them in the zone, so we went man-to-man. They got us on a couple of screens early on. We talked about that at halftime. So we made some adjustments and then we started to knock down some shots.”

The win was the 19th in 25 starts for Monroe Central. It also punched the Seminoles into Saturday’s district championship game at Meadowbrook against Fort Frye with a regional berth on the line. The OVAC 3A champion Cadets ousted Beallsville, 60-26.

Rosecrans, which upset Shadyside Saturday in two overtimes, bowed out with a 14-11 record.

Baker, who substitutes freely, received quality contributions from a host of Seminoles. However, Kalista Friday stood out above the rest.

The dynamic point guard poured in a game-high 25 points, including five treys, while also exhibiting her superb floor game. She also dished out six assists.

“I have told people all year long how good a player Kalista is. She makes everyone around her better,” Baker, now in his 18th year at the Monroe helm, offered. “She really came up big for us tonight. She is special.”

Rosecrans started strong, taking a 17-11 lead after the first quarter, getting five points each from Jenna Carlisle and Jenna McLaughlin. Friday countered with seven for Monroe Central.

The Seminoles closed the gap to 29-27 at intermission with Friday again carrying the load, netting eight points in the frame.

The tide began to turn the Seminole way in the third quarter.

The Monroe Central man defense proved a tough nut to crack for Rosecrans, as the Bishops could muster only seven points in the frame. As a result, the Seminoles forged to a 38-36 lead entering the fourth period.

The final quarter was all Monroe Central as the Bishops failed to can a field goal. Sophomore Haylynn Hiles helped break matters open, burying back-to-back treys to give the Seminoles a 49-37 lead with just over five minutes to play. Rosecrans never challenged thereafter as the winners went into clock-killing mode.

Senior Amy Bettinger turned in a strong effort for Baker’s bunch. She tallied 10 points to go with seven boards. Hiles delivered nine points while Haven Dick chipped in with eight tallies for the Monroe Countians.

Monroe connected on 19-of-44 floor attempts for 43 percent.

Carlisle topped Rosecrans with 12 points while McLaughlin had 10 markers. The Bishops dressed just eight players and did not substitute for the first 27 minutes of the game.

“I felt we could go somewhere this year. I knew what we had. We have some size, some shooters and some ballhandlers,” Baker offered. “We had some difficulties during the year, but the chemistry has come around. It is all about winning now.

“We are quite familiar with Fort Frye. Dan (Liedtke) and I have been coaching against each other for 11 or 12 years now,” he continued. “I don’t think there will be a whole lot of surprises Saturday.”

Baker led the Seminoles to the regionals in 2009.

“Some of my players were in the first grade back then,” he added.

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