ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Capping off one of the more memorable weeks in the history of the highly successful Shadyside girls' basketball program, the Tigers reclaimed the Wheeling Hospital/Ohio Valley Athletic Conference 2A Division Championship on Saturday morning on the Ohio University Eastern campus.
Earlier in the week, Coach Tina Yates' club won a thriller on the road against second-seeded Bridgeport as Shadyside's Karli Bonar became the state of Ohio's all-time leading 3-point goal scorer.
In the opening salvo of five conference title-deciding contests, the Tigers excelled both offensively and defensively to knock off familiar rival and defending champion Wheeling Central, 53-44, avenging last year's defeat. The victory also gave Shadyside a 2-1 edge against the Maroon Knights in this season's matchups.
Wheeling Central’s Colleen McCormick tries to maintain possession of the ball during Saturday morning’s game against Shadyside.
Photo by Kim North
''It's been awesome," Yates said when asked about the accomplishments of her 15-7 team the past several days. ''It's always special to win. We had a bitter feeling last year and we wanted to get that (winning) feeling back from two years ago.
The job Shadyside turned in defensively against Wheeling Central's dynamic twowome of Colleen McCormick and Emily Bucon resulted in some incredible numbers. The Maroon Knights were limited to 10 points in the opening half, scoring three during the second quarter. McCormick and Bucon were held without a single point until the former got room for a layin with 1:50 remaining in the third quarter.
While McCormick was able to add eight points in the fourth quarter to finish with 10 overall, Bucon never got untracked and managed one basket along with two free throws for a total of four points.
''I felt like we were a step slower in the first half," Central (17-4) coach Penn Kurtz said. ''I mean, the score was 20-10. I can't remember the last time we only scored 10 points and I know there hasn't been a game in Colleen and Emily's four-year careers where they didn't score in the first half.
''Shadyside kept collapsing in the paint and taking away our drives to the basket. Every time Colleen touched the ball there were two or three players on her."
The Maroon Knights were able to attempt 49 shots, hitting 17 while the patient Tigers were 16 of 42 but swished 17 of 28 free throws, connecting on 13 of 21 at the line the last quarter when Central was forced to keep putting them on the line.
Most of the offense on the Knights; end was provided by Delaney Denniston, the zone buster who came off the bench to nail three 3s. One of them was turned into a four-point play as Denniston was fouled putting up the shot. She drained the free throw and finished with 10 points to match McCormick's total.
Hayley Holenka's effective use of her left hand resulted in several easy trips to the rim for Shadyside. Holenka scored 21 points to lead the Tigers. Bonar nailed three shots from behind arc and scored 16 points after hitting 5 of 6 free-throw attempts.
Holenka's runner opened the scoring and Shadyside trailed just once at 3-2 after Beth Stayduhar nailed a 3-pointer from the left wing. Holenka came right back by pulling down a rebound following a missed Central shot and she drove coast to coast for a layin. Bonar, who spent much of the game being shadowed by Stayduhar, then rubbed off a screen and buried a triple. After Holenka added another 3-point bomb, the Tigers were on top 10-3.
Bucon was 0-for-5 from the floor while McCormick got off just two shots and missed them both during the first 16 minutes.
Getting much of the praise for keeping McCormick in check was Shadyside's 5-foot-10 senior Kristen Fijalkowski.
''Kristen did a great job guarding her," Yates said. ''We kept practicing defending that move McCormick likes to make. When she made that move, we also had somebody collapse on her."
Fijalkowski scored two points but her six rebounds and defensive effort played a major role in the victory. So were the six points on 3-for-3 shooting and five rebounds from Toni Andes along with six points from Kenzie Fielding.
''I'm proud of these girls," Yates said. ''They leave everything they have on the floor. Usually, there aren't enough basketballs in the gym but we were very patient We found the open person and were fortunate enough to have to make those bunnies," she added.
Kurtz was quick to heap praise on the Tigers.
''If you look at the teams in the OVAC championships, Shadyside beat University (5A Division), beat both teams in 4A (Steubenville and Martins Ferry) and beat River (3A qualifier) twice. Pretty much, they've beaten everybody that is going to be out here playing.
''They have a great team and they had a lot to do with happened to us.''