Bellefonte girls’ basketball coach Adam Gearhart wouldn’t repeat what he told his team at halftime of Tuesday night’s game against rival Bald Eagle Area.
But, whatever he said, it worked.
“It was spirited, it was emotional and it was at a loud volume,” Gearhart joked after his team rallied from a nine-point deficit at the break to beat BEA 40-32.
“That was probably the most animated I’ve been on the sideline,” Gearhart said. “I hate doing that, but when you get in a rivalry game like this everything comes out.”
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The Lady Red Raiders (11-11) used a 24-7 run over the first 13 minutes of the second half to shut down the Lady Eagles (2-18), inspired by the coach’s words.
“It definitely gave us something to work for,” said freshman guard Mallorie Smith, who scored eight of her 12 points in the fourth quarter. “We executed it, and that’s one of the reasons we came out on top.”
Fellow freshman Maddie Steiner also netted a dozen points while Abbie Carr pulled down 10 rebounds, Lauren Young grabbed eight rebounds and Raisa Gregor picked up four of the Lady Raiders’ 11 steals.
Julia Cingle’s 12 points led the Lady Eagles.
Turnovers were a major issue for both teams, but especially for BEA. At the suggestion of assistant coach Trevor Montgomery, Gearhart had his team switch to a 1-3-1 full-court press in the second half.
“We haven’t practiced it in a couple weeks and the girls did wonderful,” Gearhart said. “The girls ran it just like we had practiced it weeks ago.”
While Lady Eagles coach Jim Josefik didn’t think his team was necessarily hampered by the press, BEA didn’t handle the second half well. His team had 13 turnovers and made just 4 of 26 shots after halftime, including 2 of 19 during the big Bellefonte run.
“We had our shots. We had good shots,” Josefik said. “We just didn’t put them in. We had a lot of good looks for threes, we had a lot of easy baskets we could have made, we just didn’t capitalize.”
By the end of the run, capped by a 10-foot jumper from Steiner, Bellefonte had its largest lead of 36-28, and then just had to hold on.
“We felt really confident,” Smith said. “We felt we could take the ball to the hoop.”
The result spoiled BEA’s Coaches vs. Cancer Night. Along with various events for the charity, the night also was specially dedicated to Howie Chambers, who passed away in 2009 and was the father of sophomore guard Morgan Chambers.
“I started crying at the end of the game,” Chambers said. “I was really upset because I wanted to win.”
She buried a 3-pointer in the second quarter and got a huge cheer from the crowd, but a pair of 3-point attempts in the fourth quarter, as the Lady Eagles were trying to claw back, bounced off the rim.
“It was really hard,” Chambers said. “With the game being on the line, that makes it hard, but on top of that, it being Coaches vs. Cancer Night and trying to shoot, that was a lot of pressure.”
With donations, sales and the 50-50 raffle, the night netted $1,087.75 for the Coaches vs. Cancer program for the American Cancer Society.
“It was awesome,” Chambers said. “Seeing the huge student section we had tonight, that does not happen often, and it was really nice having that for Coaches vs. Cancer Night. We raised a ton of money.”