STEUBENVILLE - The Steubenville Catholic Central boys basketball team took Tuesday's senior night at Mickey Barber Gymnasium to heart.
The Crusader 12th graders combined to score 76 points as they rolled to an 81-49 win over Bridgeport.
"It was a very emotional night," said Central head coach Sean Tucker. "This is a group of kids I've been around since they were in seventh grade, and this is the first true class I've got to coach all the way up through. It's just a great feeling to see this group of kids accomplish a majority of their goals so far, and the way they play as one, it's just great to see these seniors finish on a good streak at home.
ON THE FLOOR — Steubenville Catholic Central’s Mike Manfresca recovers a loose ball against Bridgeport’s Q.J. Williams during Tuesday’s Crusaders win.
-- Matthew Peaslee
"This group of seniors only lost one game at home this year, and in my six years here it's the best record we've had at home. I can't say enough about these seniors. We have a long road ahead of us still, but it was a great night for these kids."
Led by a stingy defense and a perfect night from point guard Michael Barber, the Crusaders kept the pressure on the Bulldogs from start to finish, outscoring the visitors in all four quarters. The Crusaders forced 20 turnovers on the night, keeping the Bulldogs, who shot a respectable 18-for-41 from the field, from developing an offensive rhythm.
"In the first half I thought we gave them 10 to 12 points where we threw to nobody, threw it in the stands, or they jumped in the passing lanes and got an easy bucket," said Bridgeport head coach Donnie Cash. "That came back to hurt us."
Barber shot the lights out, connecting on all eight shots he took from the field as well as going one for one from the foul line. Three of his shots came from behind the three-point arc, and he also completed a hoop and harm opportunity.
"It felt pretty good," said Barber of his team's performance. "It's a great way to go out your senior year, the last time on our home court, and get us the three seed in the OVAC."
Added Tucker, "In the six years I've been here I don't believe I've seen any kid under me shoot 100 percent from the field at home or away. That's remarkable, and he wasn't shooting easy shots. He's our point guard, he's our floor captain, and he does a great job day in and day out."
The Crusaders received a strong performance from Matt Martello who scored 13 points while dishing out seven assists and pulling down five rebounds. While Martello was happy with his performance it was more about what the scoreboard read at the end than any individual statistics.
"I'm happy to play well individually, but it's not what this is about. I'm glad we were able to go out with a bang like this," said Martello. "The assists do make me happy. You don't get that much attention for those usually. It was nice to play well, but the win was easily the most important thing."
A hot 9-for14 start in the first quarter set the tone for the evening as the Crusaders shot 34-for-56 from the field, saw four players hit double-digits, and every senior score at least eight points.
"We've been playing together for a while now and for us to go out at home all playing well is great," said Central's Ryan Fletcher who had 14 points and four assists. "It was kind of hard knowing we were playing for the last time in our gym, but it felt great to go out and get the win."
The senior night festivities were rounded out by 13 points and five boards for John Paul Dombrowski, eight points and seven rebounds for Mike Manfresca with Brenton Colabella scoring eight, pulling down four caroms, and dishing out four assists.
"We all work hard, and it was a great team win," said Dombrowski. "It felt great to go out and get the win with this group of guys."
Added Manfresca, "It feels good that all the hard work we've put in is paying off. It feels good to win our last two games on our home court and hopefully we'll be able to carry it over to the tournament."
Continued Colabella, "We've been together since we were in seventh and eighth grade. This was a great way to go out because we all scored, we all played well, and we all worked hard through the entire game."
Cash knew Central would come out fired up after witnessing how his team stepped up in their own senior night win over Frontier.
"I know about senior night," said Cash. "We just had ours Friday night and scored 86 points. We shot the ball extremely well. Give Central credit. They're all seniors and that's what you expect from seniors come tournament time."
Central begins OVAC Tournament play at No. 2 seed Monroe Central next Tuesday
"This is a group of kids who have worked their tails off since the seventh grade to be where they are now," said Tucker.
"I'm just pleased with their performance, and everything is owed to them for their hard work."
Catholic Central 81, Bridgeport 49
Bridgeport 15 10 19 5 - 49
Catholic Central 21 22 27 11 - 81
BRIDGEPORT: Seevers 2-3, 1-1, 5; Behnke 0-0, 0-0, 0; Cash 3-8, 1-2 7; Touvill 0-0, 0-0, 0; McGrath 4-6, 0-0, 11; Williams 6-11, 4-4, 16; Doizuta 0-1, 0-0, 0; Pyatt 0-2, 0-0, 0; Dyson 2-6, 4-6, 8; Herink 0-2, 0-0, 0; Sieber 1-2, 0-0, 2. TOTALS: 18-41, 10-13, 49. 3-POINTERS: 3 (McGrath 3). REBOUNDS: 19 (Dyson 5, Williams 4, McGrath 3). ASSISTS: 12 (Cash 3, Dyson 3, Seevers 2, Williams 2). TURNOVERS: 20.
CATHOLIC CENTRAL: M. Barber 8-8, 1-1, 20; Fletcher 6-11, 0-0, 14; Colabella 3-6, 1-2, 8; Martello 5-10, 1-1, 13; Manfresca 4-7, 0-0, 8; Dombrowski 6-9, 1-3, 13; T. Barber 1-4, 0-0, 3; Svec 0-0, 0-1, 0; Rigaud 0-0, 0-0, 0; Sanford 0-0, 0-0, 0; Fischer 1-1, 0-0, 2; Fowkes 0-0, 0-0, 0. TOTALS: 34-56, 4-8, 81. 3-POINTERS: 9 (M. Barber 3, Fletcher 2, Martello 2, Colabella 1, T. Barber 1). REBOUNDS: 27 (Manfresca 7, Martello 5, Dombrowski 5, Colabella 4). ASSISTS: 23 (Martello 7, Fletcher 4, Colabella 4, Dombrowski 3). TURNOVERS: 10.