BRIDGEPORT - The second half of Thursday's Madonna vs. Bridgeport boys' basketball battle was shaping up as a near mirror image of Jan. 20's 56-55 Blue Dons win in Weirton.
Bridgeport had a sizable lead, at one point owning a 19-point advantage with 3:22 showing in the third. Madonna again cut into the lead, trailing by as little six on a James Carnes' triple in the fourth.
The difference? The first game, the Dogs went 3 of 14 at the line in the fourth. Thursday, coach Donnie Cash's club played slightly better.
Bridgeport hit 12 of 20 down the stretch and got season-high outputs from Parker Dyson and Jon Kreiter in improving to 4-13 with a 76-64 triumph.
"The difference this time compared to the first when we fell by one is we made our free throws down the stretch," Cash said.
That, and a stellar first half from the home team.
The previous game, the first half was nip-and-tuck before Bridgeport gave itself a decent cushion, going up by 12 in the third.
This time around, Dyson, Kreiter and an all-around effort from sophomore Q.J. Williams had the Bulldogs leading by nine after one and 12 at the half.
Mistakes were minimal, passes were crisp and on the mark and Dyson's soft hands were more than willing to be the recipient of successful interior passing.
Even Robert Teeman got into the act, supplying eight points off the bench in the first half.
"Parker was finishing well and Teeman gave us some great minutes off the bench," Cash said. "(Bailey) McGrath and Q.J. also played well."
While Dyson set up shop under the bucket, totaling a season-high 21 points, it was Williams' play that was the catalyst.
Williams finished with 16 points, but added 14 rebounds, five steals and five assists. Seemingly, any missed shot that came within 10 feet of Williams was snared.
"He did it at both ends of the court," Cash said. "And when we go man, he's on their best player. I know he's a load for a sophomore, but he's been producing for us all season."
Madonna wasn't producing much of anything early.
Missed shots, missed opportunities and more turnovers than Coach George Vargo wanted to see told the longtime coach something wasn't right. He substituted liberally early in earnest, trying to find the right combination.
We came off the bus with no energy. We were sluggish and made a lot of physical and mental errors," Vargo said. "Bridgeport just outhustled, outsmarted and outplayed us."
Carnes got Madonna back in the game with three successive treys that cut the lead to six.
But Madonna never managed to get any closer and once the 'Dogs got to the line, they were converting with higher than normal frequency.
"We were down nine and had a couple of bad passes that resulted in turnovers and missed an easy shot underneath and you can't have that," Vargo said.
In the fourth, Kreiter finished 6 of 8 at the stripe, pushing his total to a season-high 16 points.
Carnes finished with a game-high 25 for the Blue Dons, with Nick Mazur adding 12 and Nate Guio chipping in nine.
The Bulldogs return to action tonight when they play host to Frontier while Madonna heads to Steubenville Central.
Bridgeport 76, Madonna 64
Madonna 11 12 18 23 - 64
Bridgeport 20 15 21 20 - 76
MADONNA (64) - Guio 4 1-2 9; Antinone 0 0-0 0; Jeter 0 0-0 0; Ewusiak 2 2-2 6; Retton 2 0-0 4; Bowser 0 0-0 0; Shreve 2 0-0 5; Higgins 0 0-0 0; Carnes 9 0-0 23; Stakias 1 0-0 2; Martin 1 0-0 2; Baire 0 1-2 1; Mazur 4 1-1 12; Totals: 25 5-7 64. 3-pointers: Carnes 5, Mazur 3, Shreve.
BRIDGEPORT (76) - Roth 1 4-4 7; Fields 1 2-4 4; Kreiter 4 6-8 16; Williams 7 2-6 16; Dyson 9 3-4 21; McGrath 1 2-2 4; Teeman 3 2-2 8; Cash 0 0-0 0; Totals: 30 21-30 76. 3-pointers: Kreiter 2, Roth.