STEUBENVILLE - The third quarter was the difference Wednesday as Big Red's unbeaten girls clipped Catholic Central 39-29 in round one of their annual city championship series.
Clinging to a 20-14 halftime lead, Phil Casinelli's crew caught fire inside The Crimson Center, reeling off 13 straight points, hitting six of its first nine shots, to take a commanding lead (33-19). Central, on the other hand, misfired on seven straight tries and didn't dent the scoreboard until the final minute of the stanza.
Mytia Barker led the third quarter Big Red assault, scoring six of the 13. Brittany Bodo accounted for three.
"We really didn't make too many adjustments at the half," Casinelli said. "We did want to get out some more in transition and push the ball. We talked about that and we were able to score in transition to start the quarter."
The victory moves Big Red to 6-0 while the Crusaders now stand at 2-4.
"It was the third quarter," Central's Tom Winland noted. "We went dry for more than six minutes. That happens in games, teams go on runs back and forth.
To their credit, the Crusaders came on strong during the final stanza, outscoring the hosts 10-6. Micca Mirabella, who was saddled by early foul troubles, had two straight hoops to slice the Big Red lead to 11.
"I was proud of their effort," Winland continued. "I was proud of the way they battled back. They could have quit when they were down 15 but they didn't."
While it didn't have a great offensive evening, Casinelli pointed out his Big Red club was "solid' on the defensive end.
"We held them to 29 (Big Red also forced Central to commit 25 turnovers)," he said. "Our defense played well except for a few spurts in the second half. We lost them on a couple of switches and they were able to get some uncontested shots."
Emiley Masloski again led Big Red in scoring with 16. Barker finished with nine to go with her team-high six rebounds. Masloski also dished out five assists. As a team, Big Red was 13 of 50 from the floor. The winners did, however, knock down 11 of 16 free throw attempts.
"We would have liked to score more," Casinelli added. "We had some good looks tonight but we didn't knock them down. Had we done that, we could have a more comfortable lead."
Tori Knight and Rachel Irvin both scored six to pace the Crusaders, who had 34 field goal tries and made 14. Winland's crew only went to the line four times and missed them all. Rachel Rigaud and Miranda Parkinson both hauled nine rebounds for Central.
"We actually shot the ball well overall except for the third quarter," Winland said. "I told the girls this game can define who we are. We can go two ways with this-it could build our character or it could break us. I don't think the girls will allow it to break us."
Casinelli praised the Crusaders for being a "great defensive team."
"They're very feisty and scrappy," he added. "Offensively, they are very patient and wait on the right shot. They're tough to beat. Going in, we knew it was going to be a struggle. Regardless of anything, it's Big Red and Central and it's always going to be a battle and it was tonight.
"Our girls played hard and we're lucky to get out with a win."
Big Red, Winland noted, is the same way: feisty and scrappy.
"That's what makes this rivalry so great," he said. "They girls know each other. We both scrap and get after it. It's a compliment for him (Casinelli) to say that about us. I hope more people feel the same way."
The Lady Crusaders return to action Saturday when they host Conotton Valley.
Casinelli and his Lady Red will host Edison Monday.
"I'm proud of where we are right now in the season," Casinelli admitted. "Now we have to get back to work and get ready for Edison."
Big Red 39, Catholic Central 29
Central 10 4 5 10 - 29
Big Red 12 8 13 6 - 39
CENTRAL (2-4): Knight 3 0-0 6; Irvin 3 0-1 6; Rigaud 2 0-0 4; Mirabella 2 0-2 4; Parkinson 1 0-0 3; Dziewatkoski 0 0-0 0 Torrance 1 0-0 2; McComb 0 0-0 0; Ondos 0 0-0 0; Hunt 2 0-1 4. TOTALS: 14 0-4 29. 3-pointers: Parkinson; Rebounds: 29 (Rigaud, Parkinson 9); Turnovers: 25.
BIG RED (6-0): E. Masloski 3 9-11 16; H. Masloski 0 0-0 0; Young 1 0-0 2; Poole 1 0-1 2; Barker 4 1-2 9; Bodo 2 1-2 5; Taylor 2 0-0 5. TOTALS: 13 11-16 39. 3-pointers: Masloski, Taylor; Rebounds: 23 (Barker 6); Turnovers: 8.