STEUBENVILLE - Steubenville Catholic Central senior Rachel Rigaud belted out a beautiful rendition of the national anthem before the Crusaders' game against Madonna on Thursday night.
After that things got ugly as both teams ratcheted up the defensive intensity before the Blue Dons found a way to grind out a 24-16 victory.
"(This) game probably took basketball back 30 years, but it's a typical Madonna-Central girls basketball game," Blue Dons coach Don Ogden said. "Both teams were going to bring it. It's a great rivalry with great kids on both sides and great coaching staffs on both sides.
Added Central head coach Tom Winland, "Defensively I never have to worry. I'm very proud of the way they play. They play very hard defensively. I just need them to find that same intensity offensively.
No quarter displayed the tight defense seen throughout the evening's action like the last one.
Madonna led the game 19-16 after three quarters. When the final eight minutes elapsed, the Crusaders hadn't scored, and neither team hit a shot from the field. With three minutes gone by in the fourth Monica Bragg hit 1 of 2 foul shots to put the Blue Dons up 20-16. That was the last point scored until Bragg hit four more free throws with under a minute remaining to close out the 24-16 victory.
"It was huge," said Ogden of his team's defensive effort. "As you saw we struggled offensively. A lot of that is credited to Catholic Central. On the reverse side, I thought we did a nice job defending some of their sets, that kept us in the game, and we were fortunate to make a couple shots to pull out a victory."
The Blue Dons led 5-3 after the opening stanza, but Central scored the second quarter's first seven points to take a 10-5 lead before Bragg scored all six of the Blue Dons' points. Her basket with a little more than a minute remaining gave Madonna a lead it did not relinquish.
The third quarter saw Madonna open on a 6-0 run and Central close on a 6-2 spurt to set up the most defensive quarter of the night.
Bragg led all scorers with 13 points. Nicolette Sellitti chipped in six for the Blue Dons. Madonna shot 7-for-16 from the foul line.
The Crusaders were topped by Rigaud and Miranda Parkinson with four each. Central was 1 of 4 from the charity stripe.