ST. CLAIRSVILLE - When the game is on the line, coaches always want the ball in the hands of the veteran senior players.
Kim Clifford is no different.
Friday night, Clifford, who was presented a game ball and plaque in recognition of his achieving 400 wins in pre-game festivities, looked on as three-year veteran Joel Giffin sealed the deal against Buckeye 8 rival Bellaire.
ST. CLAIRSVILLE’S Michael Scarnecchia looks for somewhere to go with the ball during Friday’s game against Bellaire. Defending for the Big Reds are Sterling Wright (foreground) and Kenny Hess. The Red Devils prevailed, 48-43. Additional images may be found at cu.timesleaderonline.com
After watching his Red Devils cough up a 13-point third-quarter lead when the Big Reds tied the contest with 2:42 left to play, Patrick Buchanan's offensive rebound and putback gave the hosts the lead for good.
Then, after a Bellaire turnover, Giffin, who does the little things that don't show up in the boxscore, sandwiched four charity tosses around a Bellaire basket as the Red Devils held on, 48-43, on John Jenkins Court.
"That's why Joel is in the game at the end," Clifford said of his 6-3 pivot. "We only take him out to rest him because he's the veteran out there (on the court). He gets everyone in the right spots.
"We've made some runs in the past couple of years with some pretty good teams, and Joel was integral part of that because of how he understands the game. He understood it tonight, went to the free-throw line and hit some big ones."
Following the first two freebies by Giffin with 53.3 seconds remaining, Bellaire's Sterling Wright pushed the ball upcourt and was fouled with 33.9 showing. He tickled the twine twice to cut the margin to 45-43. However, Giffin was fouled again, this time with 16.8 on the clock. He knocked down both attempts for a 47-43 advantage. The Big Reds missed and Buchanan rebounded while being fouled. He sank one of the two free throws for the final margin of victory.
"Once again our inexperience hurt us," Bellaire head coach J.R. Battista acknowledged. "We've got guys playing that haven't been in those types of pressure situations. It showed, but I'm proud of them."
St. Clairsville (10-6) scored nine of the game's first 12 points, but Bellaire stormed back to trail 9-8 after one quarter. The teams were deadlocked at 18 with just over three minutes left in the first half, but the Red Devils went on an 8-2 run to lead 24-18 at the break.
Senior Jared Derosa fired in a pair of three-point goals during the run. It was also the left-handed bomber that sparked the hosts to their third-quarter bulge with another pair of trifectas.
"That's another senior that really stepped up," Clifford said. "He made some clutch shots tonight."
Finding themselves on the wrong end of a 37-26 count after three quarters, Bellaire (6-9) made its move early in the final chapter. Led by Wright and Tyler Ramsey, the Big Reds clawed their way back into the contest. They finally drew even on Kenny Hess's lone bucket of the night with 2:42 left to play.
It was all St. Clairsville from there.
"We don't have any time to savor this win because we go to Cambridge tomorrow night (Saturday)," Clifford noted. "We'll get back in the gym before we get on the bus and work on a few things."
Derosa led St. Clairsville with 12 points, one more than Michael Scarnecchia, who was saddled with foul problems much of the second half. Giffin finished with nine, while Buchanan and Brendan Ferns evenly divided 14.
Wright led all scorers with an 18-point effort off the bench for the Big Reds, who also received 14 points from Ramsey.
St. Clairsville led 25-20 off the glass as Scarnecchia wiped it clean eight times. Wright had five boards for Bellaire.
The Red Devils made it a clean sweep by claiming the JV contest.
Bellaire also returns to action tonight. It treks to Barnesville in a make-up of last Saturday's contest.
BELLAIRE (43) - Steele 1 1-2 3; Ramsey 5 4-7 14; Callarik 0 0-0 0; Hess 1 0-0 2; Neal 1 0-0 2; Wright 7 4-6 18; Westlake 2 0-0 4; Totals: 17-39 9-15. ST. CLAIRSVILLE (48) - Trouten 1 0-0 2; Derosa 4 0-0 12; Giffin 2 5-6 9; Ferns 1 5-9 7; Scarnecchia 4 1-1 11; Buchanan 3 1-2 7; Coleman 0 0-0 0; Panepucci 0 0-0 0; Totals: 15-38 12-18.
Three-Point Goals: St. Clairsville 6 (Derosa 4, Scarnecchia 2)