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Steubenville solid at line in edging Harrison Central

STEUBENVILLE — Steubenville’s girls shot 15 free throws during the fourth quarter of Thursday’s game with Harrison Central. They drained just enough (seven) to squeeze out a 43-40 senior night triumph inside the Crimson Center.

“We’ve been on a little bit of a slide the last couple of games, so it was nice to come out on the winning end regardless of the score, especially on senior night on our home court,” Steubenville coach Jeff Lombardo said after watching his team finish the regular season at 12-10. “Hopefully, this win gives us a little positive momentum going into the sectional tournament.

“We did everything we could at the end of the game to give them a chance. We missed some free throws that could have sealed the game. Luckily, we got some offensive rebounds off those misses and that allowed us to run a little more clock and get back to the line.”

The entertaining contest was close throughout. Big Red put together a 9-0 scoring run (Maggi Cucarese accounting for five of the points and Kylie Maxwell four) in the middle of the first quarter to grab a 15-12 lead.

The Huskies started the second with a 6-0 run of their own. Maddy Butler scored twice and Britton Positano added a hoop. That put Nick Yourkovich’s squad up, 18-15. Aubrey Thompson swished a triple to knot the score. Harrison answered with two more buckets from Butler and Positano. Thompson then scored off a steal to make it 22-20 Huskies at the break.

Steubenville caught fire in the third. After a Butler basket put Harrison up, 26-22, Cucarese, the sweet-shooting sophomore guard, connected twice from behind the arc. A Butler free toss made it 28-27. Big Red then rattled off six straight and led, 34-27, with eight minutes to go.

Two free throws by senior Anaiya Minniefield and a 3-pointer from Myla Gulan, also a senior, sparked the rally.

A Maxwell make from the charity stripe put the score at 36-29 early in the fourth. Harrison Central put together a 7-0 spree to tie things with 2:23 left. McKayla Dunkle, a talented sophomore, accounted for all of the points. She knocked down a jumper, then made five from the line.

Thompson went coast to coast after grabbing a rebound, and it was 38-36 Steubenville. Two free throws (one by Thompson and the other by Cucarese) pushed the advantage to 40-36. Positano made a couple of freebies with 33 ticks remaining. Thompson followed with two makes of her own before a Dunkle hoop made it 42-40 with 10 seconds left.

Gulan finished the scoring by going 1 of 2 from the stripe. Harrison Central (2-20) had a chance to force overtime, but Dunkle’s 3-point attempt missed its mark.

“With the exception of the third, I thought we played hard,” Yourkovich said. “We didn’t play hard in the third, especially on the defensive end. We let them get out to a lead. The positive is we came back and fought, which is something we haven’t done much of this year. We got back in the game and had a chance to win it at the end.

“We have a rotation of six (three freshmen, a sophomore and two juniors), so we are young and learning. I told the girls this is the second game that has come down to a last-second shot, and both times we didn’t have a timeout to draw something up. They executed perfectly, and we got a very good shot at the end with someone who we wanted to take the shot. During the next two years, she’ll be taking that kind of shot again.”

Big Red had three girls reach double figures. Thompson led the way with 13 points, while Cucarese added 12 and Maxwell 10. The freshman standout also hauled down a team-leading seven rebounds.

“Maggi hit some big 3’s in the third quarter to get us going,” Lombardo said. “Our defense got much better in the third (Big Red held Harrison Central to just five points).

“In the fourth, they were able to get to the free-throw line and get some easy buckets. A couple of times, the ball was on the floor and they got it. Those things allowed them to sneak back in.”

Big Red finished with 13 field goals and was just 12 of 25 from the line.

Dunkle took game-scoring honors with 15 points. She completed her double-double by snaring 11 rebounds. Butler, just a freshman, added 13 points, 10 coming in the first half. The Huskies connected 16 times from the floor and went 8 of 12 at the line.

“I think we became much more competitive as the season went on,” Yourkovich said. “During the last three weeks, I think our defense has been really good. Everyone we have played a second time, we pretty much held to a lower point total, and we cut the deficits way down from early in the year.

“The girls are growing. Last week, we saw them start to apply a lot of the skill work we do in practice in games. That’s a positive.”

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