WEIRTON - Early in the third quarter Friday, Catholic Central appeared ready to give Madonna another all it could handle type battle.
Michael Carapellotti tickled the twines from behind the arc and pulled the Crusaders to within one. Then Nick Battista began working his magic.
The senior point guard keyed a 10-0 run as the Blue Dons seized control and cruised to a 62-43 victory inside the packed Dube Dome.
BACKING — The back of Catholic Central's shooting shirts honored the recent tragedies in the area.
-- Mike Mathison
Madonna's decisive spurt started when Clay Rokisky caught a Battista pass and buried a triple. Battista followed that three-ball with one of his own. He then swiped the Central inbound pass and recorded an easy deuce.
Drazen Frankovitch ended the run by scoring inside off a nifty Ross Comis assist. His hoop made it 39-28 and the Blue Dons never looked back.
"Nicky has been around since his sophomore year and when he plays like that, this team shines, this team runs, this team does a lot of good things," George Vargo said after watching his squad improve to 13-2.
Weirton Madonna 62, Catholic Central 43
Catholic Central 10 15 8 10 - 43
Weirton Madonna 13 14 22 13 - 62
CENTRAL (9-7): Barber 0 0-0 0; Colabella 4 1-2 10; Pieniazek 2 0-0 4; Carapellotti 3 0-0 9; Mihalyo 0 0-0 0; Emmerling 1 0-0 2; Herrington 6 1-1 13; Manfresca 0 0-0 0; Fletcher 2 0-0 5; Martello 0 0-0 0; Porreca 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 18 2-3 43. 3-pointers: Carapellotti (3), Colabella, Fletcher.
MADONNA (13-2): Comis 4 0-0 9; Guio 0 -0 0; Battista 6 0-0 13; Mogan 1 0-0 2; Egyud 0 0-0 0; Bowser 0 0-0 0; Rokisky 6 3-6 16; Ewusiak 0 0-0 0; Pietranton 0 0-0 0; Frankovitch 9 4-5 22; Martin 0 0-0 0; Antinone 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 26 7-11 62. 3-pointers: Comis, Rokisky, Battista.
"When he steals the ball, when he makes a great pass, our sixth man gets involved. Our sixth man, the fans, really energized us tonight."
Madonna, West Virginia's second-ranked Class A club, extended its advantage to 49-33 after three. Battista finished the third period with nine points, two assists and a pair of steals. He and Comis both had three assists and four steals.
"Our kids got into the full court pressure defense in the third quarter and we caught them by surprise," Vargo added. "We got a 10-0 run out of it. The element of surprise helped us tonight and hurt Coach (Sean) Tucker. We caught fire and kept on going."
The Crusaders, who handed the Blue Dons a 57-53 defeat earlier in the season, stayed close in the first half. Central trailed 13-10 after one quarter and 27-25 at the break.
"We came out physically in the second half, but our team stayed in the locker room," Central's Tucker said. "In the first half, our intensity was good, we were right where we wanted to be at the half. In the third quarter, our transition defense was terrible, they were just throwing the ball down the floor. We weren't getting back, I don't think we had two guys down the floor the whole night."
Frankovitch took game scoring honors with 22. He put on a clinic when it came to "following his shots." He snared six of his own strays, converting them into 12 points. Rokisky contributed 16 and Battista 13.
"Frankovitch and Rokisky had 38 points between them," Vargo noted. "Any time you get that kind of production from your big men, good things are going to happen and good things happened for us tonight."
The big men also both swatted away a pair of Central shots.
Madonna hit 26 of 55 from the floor, was guilty of 14 turnovers and collected 30 rebounds. Frankovitch led the way with 11. During the decisive third frame, the Dons hit 10 of 14 field goal tries.
Zach Herrington paced Central, now 9-7, with 13. Brenton Colabella added 10 and Carapellotti nine.
"We had zero movement tonight offensively," Tucker said. "We have some really good shooters but we have to find out why we don't want to score. We were catching the ball not ready to score and weren't squaring up to the bucket. We need to make adjustments."
From the field, the Crusaders were 18 of 53. It had 17 turnovers and 28 rebounds. Herrington grabbed six. In the first game with Madonna, Central went to the charity stripe 34 times. Friday, the Crusaders shot just three freebies.
Madonna, which entered the week as the second ranked Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Class A unit, returns to action tonight, entertaining Bishop Donahue, ranked eighth among West Virginia Class A teams.
"Bishop Donahue is 12-4 but has lost to four solid teams," Vargo indicated. "It's going to be an old-fashion back yard brawl with our friends down in Moundsville."
Central began the week holding the second spot among OVAC Class AA schools. The Crusaders stay on the road today, traveling to Bridgeport.
"We need to get back on track at Bridgeport," Tucker said. "We're going to have our hands full, but our guys can still do something really special. We can make a good run at the OVAC title. I hope we can regain our focus."
The Crusaders wore new warm-up shirts Friday featuring three figures on the back (one for Indian Creek, Big Red and Central). Produced by the Target Shop, the shirts included the phrase "In Our Prayers."