STEUBENVILLE - Rachel Rigaud did everything but sell popcorn for the Steubenville Catholic girls' basketball team on Thursday.
After opening the evening with a strong performance of the National Anthem, the senior post player proceeded to record a double-double (13 points and 10 rebounds) as the Crusaders clipped Bubba Kapral and his St. John Fighting Irish, 42-35.
Rigaud put Tom Winland's club ahead to stay following her conventional three point play (the deuce came off a nifty spin move in the paint) midway through the first quarter. Then she sparked a 6-0 run to start the second. Rigaud swished a couple of free throws before scoring in the lane. Micca Mirabella recorded the other hoop after snaring an offensive rebound.
That scoring burst put the Crusaders ahead 22-11. Tori Knight's triple off glass to end the opening period allowed the hosts to grab a 16-11 advantage. At halftime, Central was up 24-14.
Late in the fourth quarter, the Irish cut the margin to six at 36-30 after Jessica Alvey knocked down a jumper from the corner. Rigaud keyed Steubenville Catholic's response. She assisted on a hoop by Mirabella, drew a charge to force a St. John turnover, then drove hard to the basket for her final points.
"This was a big win for us against a very good team that is well-coached," Winland said. "I have a lot of respect for Bubba and his program."
The victory moved Central to 3-6 and avenges a 34-29 loss suffered earlier in the season on the St. John floor. The Irish fell to 6-3.
"Our defense played well (St. John failed to register a field goal in the second quarter), and we shot the ball better than we have lately," Winland continued. "We had a stretch late where their pressure really bothered us and we didn't take good care of the basketball (the Crusaders were guilty of 28 turnovers).
Mirabella finished with 10 points for the Crusaders, who connected on 18 of 48 field goal tries. Knight added seven, all coming in the first half.
"We're 6-3 but tonight we looked like we are 0-9," Kapral said. "For most of the game, we played with no passion and no effort. We did play hard the last eight minutes. We gift-wrapped this one.
"Give Central credit. They played well defensively and they're very methodical on offense. Tom is doing a nice job with his team. We made a run at the end (St. John outscored Central 14-10 during the final stanza), but we waited too long."
Kristen Russell paced the Irish in scoring with 13. She too recorded a double-double, hauling down 12 rebounds. Marissa Rose had nine and Kaydie Coppa eight. St. John took 52 shots but swished just 11.