ST. CLAIRSVILLE - The Union Local Jets have a lot to be proud of when they reflect on the 2013-14 basketball season.
Although things ended much sooner than the Jets and their fans had hoped with a 52-49 loss to Martins Ferry in the Division III District semifinals at Ohio University Eastern, the list of accomplishments for Coach Ben Porter’s squad was quite impressive.
— a 22-2 record
— several weeks as the No. 1-ranked team in the AP Division III state poll, finishing the year ranked third.
—  the Buckeye 8 championship
— a runner-up finish to Steubenville in the OVAC Class 4A playoffs
— the Division III Sectional crown
“We’re disappointed, of course, but there’s nothing to hang our heads about of,” said Porter. “It was a very good year.”
Union Local scored two close wins against Ferry during the regular season, including one in overtime, so it figured to be a nail-biter when the teams met for the third time.
The Jets led 6-1 early on, but the Purple Riders recovered and managed an 11-10 lead at the first quarter stop.
In round two, UL managed a 15-12 edge thanks to five points each from Trenton Tipton and David Paulick, for a 25-23 halftime lead. Ferry big men Robert Vargo (6-6) and Emilion Appolloni (6-8) scored five each in the period.
Trenton Tipton nailed two “triples” in the third as UL added a point to its lead, outscoring Ferry 13-12 to take a 38-35 upperhand to the final frame. Vargo again led Ferry with six tallies.
The Riders scored the first two buckets of the four quarter to move in front and things see-sawed from there, with Ferry getting a clutch three-point play from James Edwards which was countered by a “triple” from Kaleb McDiffitt which gave UL a 49-48 edge with 1:32 remaining.
Vargo goaled at the one-minute mark to put Ferry on top, 50-49 and then, after a UL miss, Edwards nailed two free throws with 16 ticks left for a three-point Rider lead.
The Jets had one final chance to tie, but a three-pointer, rebound attempt and another “trey” all missed the mark.
“It was real similar (to the earlier games with Ferry),” said Porter. “It just came down to a couple of push-out lay-ups late in the game that were the turning points.
“We hit some big shots down the stretch, but they matched them,” he added.
Vargo - the East District Division III “Player of the Year” who is headed to Ohio Dominican University on a football scholarship - led Ferry (14-9) with 20 21 points and 10 rebounds. Traversa netted 13 tallies and Edwards had 11 while point guard Jake Barritt dished out six assists.
“We were sloppy and sluggish and we didn’t play defense like I wanted us too,” said Ferry coach Jeff Sabatino. “Union Local played great like they always do, but we ended up with more points...go figure.”
UL got 15 points from Trenton Tipton; 10 from McDiffitt; eight from Gavin Porter and seven apiece from Paulick and Colton McKivitz. McKivitz also had eight rebounds; Porter had six boards and four assists; and McDiffitt had four assists.
Ferry was 19-of-36 from the field and 14-of-17 at the line with 25 rebounds and eight turnovers. UL hit 17-of-49 action shots and 8-of-9 charity tosses with 25 caroms and seven miscues.
The Jets lose just two players - Cody Tipton and Eric Dunfee - to graduation and Porter said both were key assets during the successful season.
“Cody went from starting to sixth man to seventh man and never once griped about his role,” said the UL coach. “He was the ultimate team player. Eric is a unique kid...the type who will miss a couple of ‘threes’; smile about it and hit a big 30-footer when you need it.”
With four-fifths of the starting lineup returning, Porter hopes to continue the success next season.
“Now we’ll see where we go from here,” he closed. “We’ve got to get in the gym and work harder.”