RAYLAND - A 15-point victory and Martins Ferry head coach Jeff Sabatino was not happy.
The veteran Purple Riders' bench boss had just watched his squad post a methodical, 68-53, triumph over homestanding Buckeye Local Monday, but he was disappointed in its defense, especially late in the game.
"Honestly, I wasn't happy with our defense the whole game," Sabatino admitted. "This was our worst defensive effort of the season. I think I can accurately say that. I didn't think we stopped anything they were trying to do. I just thought when we stopped them it was because they missed shots.
"I was very disappointed with our defense tonight, and for the most part, we've played outstanding defense for the year. I have no rhyme or reason for it. I just think we played poorly defensively."
Unfortunately for the Panthers (4-12) and first-year head coach Greg Haberfield, they missed plenty of shots as they connected on a mere 19 of 61 attempts. Included in that was a horrendous 3-for-18 showing in the third quarter when Martins Ferry (9-7) sealed the deal.
"I thought those woes were behind us," Haberfield said of the Panthers' poor shooting numbers. "We came out flat again in the second half.
"In the first half, we did a good job of not letting their inside game hurt us, but then they knocked down a couple of threes which was kind of discerning.
"They just made the plays down the stretch and we didn't. That's how the game went tonight."
A back-and-forth first half saw the Buckeye 8 rivals exchange the lead 11 times. They were also deadlocked five, the last at 25 before the Purple Gang scored the final four points of the half.
A three-point play by Buckeye Local's Devan Pyciak to start the third quarter drew the hosts to within 29-28, but a 22-4 run by Martins Ferry put the game out of reach.
Cat-quick senior point guard Jake Barritt led the surge with seven of his 19 points. He also handed out seven assists and charted three steals. Sophomore Kylil Bass came off the bench and immediately produced with six points and five rebounds.
Martins Ferry built the margin to 25, 57-32, early in the final quarter, but Buckeye Local's Dylan Dokes dialed long- distance three straight times. Brennan Czuchran's trifecta with 2:17 remaining cut the deficit to 14, 64-50, but that would be as close as they would get.
Robert Vargo worked the paint for 23 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. James Edwards contributed 13 points while dishing out three assists. 6-8 Emilio Appolloni had six points, five assists, a like number of rebounds and four blocked shots.
Dokes led all scorers with 25 points. He tallied 13 in the fourth quarter. Czuchran chipped in 16, but none of the other five Panthers that saw action had more than five.
Both teams are back in action tonight as Martins Ferry welcomes Indian Creek and Buckeye Local travels to Bellaire.
Martins Ferry 68, Buckeye Local 53
Martins Ferry 14 15 22 17 - 68
Buckeye Local 15 10 7 21 - 53
MARTINS FERRY (9-7): Vargo 11 1-1 23; Barritt 7 3-3 19; Edwards 6 0-0 13; Appolloni 2 2-2 6; Burress 0 1-2 1; Agnew 0 0-0 0; Bass 3 0-0 6; Totals: 29-55 7-8 68. 3-pointers: Barritt 2, Edwards.
BUCKEYE LOCAL (4-12): Czuchran 6 0-0 16; Borkoski 1 0-0 2; Dokes 9 2-3 25; Pyciak 1 1-1 3; Donahue 2 0-0 5; Moffo 0 2-2 2; Beall 0 0-0 0; Totals: 19-61 5-6 53. 3-pointers: Dokes 5, Czuchran 4, Donahue