The Bald Eagle Area defense certainly knows how to light a fire.
The Lady Eagle basketball team held a lead of just eight points just over three minutes into the second half when that defense turned the game into a one-sided affair.
BEA scored 14 of the next 16 points and took down cross-county rival Penns Valley 51-31 Tuesday night.
“They play hard, work hard, they gave us good competition,” said Mary Pillot, who netted 10 points all in the first half. “We knew they were going to come at us and play hard. They pushed us but we were ready for them.”
The win kept the Lady Eagles (17-1) rolling through their season, with West Branch visiting Wednesday before a showdown with Tyrone in the BEA gym on Friday.
Marissa Ward scored 14 of her game-high 17 points after halftime, with the senior who averages 20 points a game finally catching fire after several early misses.
“She’s like that some nights,” said coach Bill Butterworth, whose team had a total run of 21-4 into the fourth quarter before the starters were pulled. “Some nights I’ll look up and I didn’t think she scored 10 points and I look up and she has 20, and other nights (I think) she has 20 and she only has five. Tonight it didn’t seem to be going for her, but when it’s not going for her, it’s going for Lexi (Josefik) or it’s going for Mary or Kate (Miller).”
Ward wasn’t the only one who ignited after the break. Josefik netted all but one of her 10 points after the break and the pair combined for 16 points in the third quarter to lock up the win.
“Coach always tells us, ‘If someone’s not getting their shots, keep stepping up, keep shooting, they’re going to fall eventually,’” Pillot said of Ward. “It was one of those nights, she usually hits them so we’re going to be fine.”
Kelsey Boone’s eight points and eight rebounds led the Lady Rams (5-13), who have been spiraling since starting the season strong. Penns Valley was 4-1 to open the season and 5-3 when the calendar turned to 2013, but have since lost 10 straight.
“We’re struggling,” coach Andrea Borland said. “We’re in a funk.”
Her team didn’t have an answer for the BEA press in the third quarter.
Butterworth had been using various full-court press defenses most of the night, but Penns Valley was busting through the traps, and he changed to another one in the third quarter. That one, again, was not very successful, so Butterworth switched back to his origianl plan.
“I didn’t think it was working at the back end of it, so we went back to what we started out with,” Butterworth said.
So why did it work the second time around?
“I don’t know,” Butterworth said. “Sometimes we tire teams out with our speed. I think Marissa was getting a little more focused.”
The Rams turned the ball over 10 times in the third quarter alone, and of their 26 turnovers for the game, 19 were from BEA steals. Josefik had five steals, Ward had four and three each came from Pillot and Alli Simpson.
“They’re a good team, they’ve been playing together for a really long time and they know exactly what they’ve got to do,” Borland said. “They’re very aggressive on their press.”
Penns Valley’s defense was holding its own in the first half, including forcing nine Eagle turnovers while keeping Ward and Josefik quiet.
“We hung tight with them in the first half,” Borland said. “We played very aggressive defense and we did what we had to do. But when they started to make their runs, we struggled to score and that works on our confidence level there. We’e struggling to score.”
The hard part for the Lady Eagles is trying to focus on their first two games of the week with Tyrone (14-5) looming on Friday.
“I’m going to be honest, I do think about that game,” Pillot said. “All I want to do is win, work hard in practice, play one game at a time. We can’t overlook anybody becasue they’ll come out ready to play, so we’ll have to be ready to play too.”
Notes: Karly Ripka added six points for Penns Valley, Chelsea Emel also grabbed eight rebounds and Mackenzie Ironside had three steals. ... The Lady Rams face Clearfield on Friday. ... Ward and Josefik accounted for all but three BEA points after halftime. ... BEA shot 19-for-43 from the field, Penns Valley was 10-for-42.