WEIRTON - The Madonna Blue Dons boys basketball team managed only one shot from the field during the fourth quarter of their matchup with the Toronto Red Knights Tuesday at the Dube Dome.
They did, however, knock down 14 of 23 free throws to secure a 60-54 victory. The win avenged a 50-37 loss at the hands of the Red Knights 18 days ago.
"First of all (Toronto head coach) John Leary has brought this program to respectability," said Madonna head coach George Vargo. "When you look at last year to where they are this year you can see he's doing a great job at Toronto.
DISHING THE BALL — Toronto’s Tyler Owens kicks the ball out to an open teammate during the Red Knights’ 60-54 loss to Madonna Tuesday at the Dube Dome.
-- Fred Younce
"On our end, I think our kids finally came out and played with some energy. They played for 32 minutes. We didn't take care of the ball like we wanted to, but at the end of the game we got to the foul line and shot well from there.
"I think it helped the way we controlled the boards as well. That and making our foul shots at the end were the keys to the game."
In all, Madonna outscored Toronto 19-3 at the charity stripe with the home team shooting 32 to the visitors six. The Blue Dons also came away with a 39-21 advantage of the boards as they pulled down 18 on the offensive end.
"We played very poorly, starting out, defensively," said Leary." We gave up way too many second shots. That's just ridiculous. I've always talked about this team's effort, and I'm always pleased with their effort.
"They always fight back. Tonight in the second half they gutted it out all the way to the end. I wish in the first half we would have played with a little more urgency in our rebounding.
"That just butchered us. Our defense in the first half, and our lack of rebounding, which gave them second chance shots, dug a hole for ourselves."
The Blue Dons held the lead wire-to-wire, opening on a 6-0 run and sustaining multiple Red Knights' runs throughout the evening.
Nate Guio stepped up for the victors, particularly in the fourth quarter where he scored nine of his 19 points. All nine final stanza points came from the foul line, where he shot 9-for-14.
"I think the combination that gave Guio 19 points was his free throw shooting at the end of the game and his rebounding at the beginning of the game," said Vargo. "It was a big plus for us seeing Guio have a big game."
James Carnes provided support with a 15-point effort while Will Bowser and Nick Mazur chipped in with nine. Bowser was 7-for-10 from the line - including 3-of-4 in the fourth quarter.
"Give credit to Madonna, they were ready to play," said Leary. "I harped on the kids ever since our last game was over and we knew this was coming up that they'd be ready to play, and they were.
"They outworked us and outhustled us, especially in the first half. I'm very proud of my kids effort in the second half, and if we played like that in the first half I think things might have been a little different. But we had to dig out of a hole the entire night."
Toronto had a trio of scorers reach double-digits led by Dillan Gault's 13. Brad Melville added 11 and Tyler Owens pitched in with 10.
Madonna is in action again Thursday when it travels to Bridgeport while Toronto plays host to East Richland Christian Friday.
"Hopefully we're growing up," said Vargo. "Hopefully this is a jumping board for Thursday when we play Bridgeport, another good team.
"The kids are young. I'll keep on being patient with them, and I showed a lot of patience with them tonight. Hopefully we'll progress through the rest of the season and continue to improve."
Madonna 60, Toronto 54
Toronto 15 10 12 17 - 54
Madonna 20 13 11 16 - 60
TORONTO: Glenn 4 1-1 9, Chadwick 3 1-1 8, Owens 4 0-0 10, Melville 5 0-0 11, Gault 6 1-4 13, Rawson 1 0-0 3, Stewart 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 23 3-6 54. 3-pointers: Owens (2), Chadwick, Melville, Rawson.
MADONNA: Baire 1 0-2 2, Guio 5 9-14 19, Antinone 0 0-0 0, Jeter 0 0-0 0, Ewusiak 1 0-1 2, Retton 1 0-0 2, Bowser 1 7-10 9, Mazur 2 3-4 9, Shreve 1 0-0 2, Carnes 7 0-1 15, Stakais 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 19 19-32 60. 3-pointers: Mazur (2), Carnes.