Frontier claims OVAC girls basketball title

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – Frontier accomplished a first Saturday night.

The No. 3-seeded Lady Cougars stunned top-seeded and previously undefeated Bridgeport with a 46-44 triumph in the Wheeling Hospital OVAC Girls Basketball Championships Class 2A final before a boisterous crowd inside the Health and Physical Education Center on the campus of Ohio University Eastern.

“This feels really good,” said Frontier head coach Scott Murphy. “OVAC Class 2A champions has a nice ring to it. “This team has been tested the last few weeks in a couple of different ways, but they’ve responded each time.”

Frontier (16-4) was paced by senior Kelsea Daugherty and Jenna Maston, who scored 13 and 12 points, respectively. Daugherty also grabbed 10 rebounds, and Maston dished out four assists.

Corisa Fickiesen added nine markers for the champions.

Maclaine Murad, who reached the 1,000-point plateau for her career early in the game, led Bridgeport with 19 points. Caitlyn Kroll added 10 points, five rebounds, two steals and a pair of assists, while Nicole Smolenak had seven points and three assists. Briana Massey added six points and five boards.

Going into the contest, the Lady Bulldogs (20-1) were ranked No. 3 in the Associated Press Division IV poll,

“Obviously, we didn’t play our best tonight,” Bridgeport head coach Rob Zitzelsberger admitted. “For 20 games we’ve been blessed to give our best outing, tonight we didn’t do that. You can tell just by looking at our free throws. We shot 7 of 13 and usually we shoot 75-76 percent.

“I’m proud of my girls,” the Bridgepoort coach continued. “Twenty wins is nothing to be ashamed of. There’s more important things in life than one basketball game. It’s not how many times you get knocked down, but how many times you get back up. You’ve got to have that fire in your belly to win again.”

Frontier jumped out to an 8-0 lead and never looked back in leading 17-10 after one period and 25-22 at the half.

Bridgeport trailed by nine entering the final 8-minute quarter. Behind Kroll, Smolenak and Murad, the Bulldogs slowly, but surely, started creeping closer and closer to the Cougars.

After Frontier missed the front end of back-to-back bonus situations inside a minute remaining, Murad meshed a three-pointer to cut the deficit to 43-42 with 34 seconds showing.

“The only thing that made me sweat a little bit was the two free throws we missed there late,” Murphy said.

Fickiesen hit the front end of a 1-and-1 11 ticks later to make it 44-42, but Kroll deadlocked things for the first time with two free throws at the 13.4-second mark.

Murphy called a timeout to setup his last-second strategy, which was simple.

“Attack the basket,” he said. “Attack the basket.”

Fickiesen did just that. Taking the inbounds pass and avoiding a couple of Bridgeport defenders, she dribbled across the halfcourt stripe and down the right side of the lane where she softly kissed the ball off the glass and through the net for a 46-44 edge.

Bridgeport immediately called timeout, but Kroll’s shot from about 25 foot was just off the mark.

“The game didn’t come down to the last shot,” Zitzelsberger said in defense of his sophomore standout. “We lost the game early on.

“But to these girls’ credit, they fought back and showed some character,” he added.

Frontier led 20-19 off the glass and had nine turnovers to five for Bridgeport.