The Bellefonte girls’ basketball team had held the lead since the first minute, but when time began to dwindle in the fourth quarter, Bald Eagle Area was making a surge.
The Lady Eagles had the deficit cut to three points, and had several chances to slice the margin even more.
“They remained calm,” Lady Red Raiders coach Adam Gearhart said. “That’s the first time I saw them stay calm like that this season. It showed what they need to do in the fourth quarter. I was proud of that. They kept their heads and let me lose mine.”
Instead of wilting, Bellefonte never let BEA score another point and pulled away for a 38-28 Mountain League victory Monday night.
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“Everybody kept their heads,” Gearhart said. “That’s what we’ve struggled with in these close games — keeping our heads and staying calm. We did that tonight and were able to pull away.”
Behind a dozen points each from Ally Steen and Jess Book, with Steen also pulling down seven rebounds, the Lady Red Raiders (2-9, 2-5) knocked off their neighborhood rivals.
Haley Giedroc posted seven points and seven rebounds for the Lady Eagles (3-9, 0-7), and Alyssa Ward also tossed in seven points.
Played at a deliberate pace for most of the night, BEA trailed by seven at the start of the fourth quarter, but a pair of Ward baskets had that lead trimmed down to 31-28 with 4:12 left.
However, BEA would not find any more success, making just those two field goals out of nine attempts in the quarter while turning the ball over six times.
“We made our run,” coach Troy Butterworth said. “(We) just couldn’t make a few shots, had a couple uncontested turnovers there when we could have cut it to three or two.”
Still, Butterworth was glad, even as his team never led all night, that the Lady Eagles gave themselves a chance at the win.
“It could have easily gone the other way,” Butterworth said. “A lot of our games have gone the other way this year. Not tonight it didn’t.”
Gearhart gave a lot of the defensive credit to Lexi Wetzler, who had a pair of steals in the game, including swiping the ball and racing the other way for a layup in the final minute to lock up the win.
“Lexi and Ally stood out for us defensively,” Gearhart said.
Steen also had a pair of steals and had a big game on the boards, including a pair of put-backs on the offensive end.
“I was hoping for that,” said Gearhart, whose team won the rebounding battle 31-24. “I was hoping we had them size-wise. We should have got those rebounds, offensively and defensively. It was Ally. It was something she hasn’t done much, and she played hard. She’s normally a scorer, but she got some steals and those rebounds and some second chances for us tonight.”
Bellefonte grabbed control of the game at the outset, with a Marissa Moriarta drive setting up a layup for Book just 25 seconds into the game for a lead the Lady Raiders would never lose. Two Steen baskets and another score for Book on a put-back after a Steen steal had the lead at 8-0 with 3:14 left in the first.
BEA would later trail by as much as 12 and as little as four points until that fourth-quarter surge, but could never catch its rival on the scoreboard.
“I don’t know if it’s the pressure or what it is — the excitement of the game,” Butterworth said of the early hole for his team. “... We just started out slow.”