ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Top-seeded St. Clairsville found itself in the danger zone Thursday night. Upstart Carrollton came out of the gates hot, while the Red Devils did not.
It allowed the Warriors to build a 16-6 lead after one and a 26-17 gap at halftime during the Division II Eastern District Championship Game at Ohio University Eastern.
However, the senior-dominated Red Devils simply took the game over.
More specifically, Dan Monteroso, soon-to-be three-time All-Ohio selected, saddled the Red Devils on his back once again and led them to a 67-58 victory against the Warriors (16-9) before a jam-packed crowd.
''We said some things in the locker room that you probably can't say in public,'' Monteroso said. ''We did what we had to do. We created turnovers and did a heckuv a job of scoring off those turnovers. I thought we really put the clamps down in the second half.''
Behind another 40-point explosion from Monteroso, the Red Devils (22-2) are headed to the regional tournament at Ohio University in Athens next Thursday. It marks St. C.'s second consecutive regional trip and the second in school history.
''It's very, very special,'' Red Devils coach Clifford said. ''It took us a long time to get there and we're going to savor this one just like we did last year's. This is just as special, if not more special because we get another week to practice together.''
Next up for the Red Devils is a date with New Philadelphia, which took out West Holmes on Wednesday night in Zanesville. That will be a rematch of last year's regional final.
There were certainly plenty of anxious moments for the Red Devils before any attention could be shifted to the Quakers. The second-half flurry was nothing that Clifford, his coaches and the Red Devils faithful who turned out hadn't seen before.
Monteroso, who was held scoreless in the first quarter, started to pick it up in the second, scoring all 11 of his team's points.
''I looked up and saw that Dan hadn't scored and we were in a little bit of trouble,'' Clifford said. ''He got it going, though and had a really good final three quarters.''
After the spirited discussion, the Red Devils came alive in the third.
While the Purdue-bound Monteroso scored 11 more, seniors Jerrid Marhefka, Adam Jeffries and Riley Carlton all connected on 3-pointers in the third.
Despite the Red Devils erupting for 25 points in the third, Carrollton still managed to hold a 43-42 upperhand as Akron-bound senior Stephen Ericksen continued to score at will on the interior. He went for a team-high 22 points.
Carlton put St. C. on top when be nailed a triple from the top of the key to begin the fourth. After an Ericksen goal tied it on the other end, Monteroso took over.
He went on a 9-0 run by himself that included a four-point play, a scrum on the floor that led to a leak-out flush and one of the game's biggest plays when he swatted Ericksen, rebounded the ball and went coast-to-coast for a conventional three-point play.
''The place erupted during that stretch,'' Monteroso said. ''On that four-point play, the ball hit every part of the rim. I was looking and using some body english to get it to go down. We're happy to have gotten the win.''
The Warriors crept within five at 54-49, but each time Monteroso had the answer. Between Carlton's 3 and a pair of free throws by Marhefka in the game's wanning moments, Monteroso scored 19 consecutive points.
''He's a monster,'' Carrollton coach Matt Voll said of Monteroso. ''We tried to have people there, guard the gaps and still guard their shooters on the outside, but they got clicking. Monteroso got going and then the rest of their guys got going."