STEUBENVILLE - Two second half scoring bursts made the difference Tuesday as Steubenville's girls knocked off Oak Glen 53-39 and advanced to the finals of the Wheeling Hospital OVAC Class 4A Tournament.
Phil Casinelli's top-seeded crew will play the survivor of tonight's Martins Ferry-Union Local clash at 3 p.m. Saturday for the conference crown. The title game is scheduled for Ohio University's Eastern campus in St. Clairsville.
"It definitely is a nice win for our program," Casinelli said. "I'm so proud of our girls. This is a great accomplishment for them. They work hard and they earned it.
"We'll enjoy this for maybe a day. We'll find how who our opponent will be then we'll get to work and come up with a game plan."
The trip to the OVAC championship contest will be Big Red's first in four years.
Big Red (14-7) and Oak Glen went toe to toe during the first 16 minutes. The Golden Bears used baskets by Jessica Stivason, Casey Patterson and Kaitlyn Herstine to grab a 14-10 advantage after one quarter.
Lysiah Rice and Hannah Masloski recorded back-to-back hoops to give Big Red a 22-20 lead at halftime. The contest featured five opening half lead changes.
Scott Wiley's Oak Glen club knocked seven of its first 12 field goal tries and shot 50 percent (10 for 20) for the half.
The hosts led 30-27 midway through the third before staging their initial scoring run. Rice got things rolling when she scored from the lane. The Masloski sisters - Hannah and Emiley - then drained consecutive triples and Big Red was up 38-27. It was 38-29 Big Red heading into the final quarter.
Oak Glen wasn't about to go away quietly. Vanessa Hissam, Stivason and Tori Feicht all scored to open the fourth and slice the Big Red lead to 38-35. Points by Mytia Baker and Emiley Masloski put the score at 43-35. OG's Alex Arnott recorded a pair before Big Red put the semifinal win on ice with a second 8-0 burst.
Barker turned consecutive Emiley Masloski passes into points then the two juniors each sank a pair of free throws. Barker scored 10 of her team's 17 fourth stanza markers.
After shooting well in the first half, the Golden Bears were just seven for 24 during the final quarters and were guilty of 12 turnovers.
"Their pressure hurt us and we didn't handle the ball well," Wiley said. "We had some open shots but we couldn't get the ball in the hole. They play tough man to man defense and we knew that coming. There's a reason why they're number one in the OVAC."
Casinelli pointed out his team did make some defensive adjustments at the half.
"We were getting beat on back-door plays on the baseline in the first half," he said. "The girls responded to the changes made by the coaching staff and did a great job in the second.
"Any time you can hit the three that definitely is a plus. We haven't been able to hit three's recently but tonight a few fell at the right time. We hit some shots, got a couple of defensive stops and that's how you get those 8-0 runs."
Barker led Big Red in scoring with 18 and also collected nine of her team's 22 rebounds.
"I think playing the last two weeks without Emiley, Mytia really stepped up and played," Casinelli said. "She gained confidence in herself and it showed. She knew she had to pick up her game and she did a great job of rebounding, attacking the basket and getting to the foul line."
Emiley Masloski, still not at full strength, added 10 and dished out five assists. Hannah Masloski added nine and three assists.
Stivanson, who canned her first four shots, paced Oak Glen, now 9-8, with 10 points. Feicht and Hissam each had eight. The Golden Bears had 30 rebounds, Hissam getting nine and also blocking five shots.