The Bald Eagle Area coaching staff sat down Monday and decided to try something new.
The Eagles needed a boost after allowing more than 70 points in four straight losses, so they started their game Wednesday against Bellefonte in a full-court press.
The strategy sparked Bald Eagle Area’s fast start en route to a 72-62 win over the Red Raiders.
“We’ve been playing halfcourt zone, halfcourt man and getting off to slow starts,” BEA coach Bill Butterworth said. “And we were battling back from eight or nine points down in the first quarter and then we’re exhausted going into the second.
“So tonight, I figured if we’re going to be tired, let’s get after them in the first quarter and see what happens.”
BEA (5-6) bolted to a 17-3 lead as Bellefonte (5-5) struggled against the pressure and the Eagles capitalized in transition.
Bald Eagle Area guard Trey Butterworth scored a layup off a steal caused by Brandon Gettig’s tight defense on the perimeter to start the game. The Eagles continued to push the pace early, as Butterworth stepped past a defender on another breakway layup to push the advantage to 8-2. Butterworth was on the finishing end of another Bellefonte turnover against the BEA press to make it 13-2 less than halfway through the opening period.
Gettig, who finished with a team-high 22 points, later knocked down a pull-up jumper to push the lead to 14.
Bellefonte was out of sorts, while BEA was off to an efficient start.
“We came out slow,” Bellefonte coach Darin Hazel said. “Give credit to Bald Eagle, they played a real good first quarter. It was one of those things where we just weren’t in our spots. Stuff that we practice day in, day out. We just weren’t there. That was the frustrating part.”
Bald Eagle Area had been frustrated during a four-game slide.
The Eagles’ defense was largely to blame.
“We’re trying to work on our defense,” Gettig said. “That’s what’s killing us still. We got to get better at that first, but we had a little bit of a better rhythm offensively tonight, really sharing the ball. The points were spread out tonight really nice.
“The last few games, the schedule’s been really tough. We just got to find a way to win the close games against the good teams.”
The Eagles found a way to snap the streak behind its full-court press, which Butterworth said the Eagles had used only to try to overcome late deficits before Wednesday.
BEA led 19-7 after the first quarter and took a 38-22 lead into halftime.
“Our defense did step it up in the first half,” Butterworth said. “It was nice to see that because we’ve been giving up 70, 80 points to the last four teams. … Defense creates offense because we were getting transition baskets off of steals.”
Bellefonte made a run in the third quarter, slicing a 21-point deficit to 10, but never threatened BEA’s lead.
Hunter Knisely kickstarted the Red Raider offense with back-to-back 3-pointers and finished with 11 of his 13 points in the third quarter.
“That’s what’s fun about it, is getting to coach kids that just give it their all and they did,” Hazel said. “They showed a lot of heart and effort in the second half.”
Trent Fortney led Bellefonte with 24 points.
The Eagles got a balanced effort behind Gettig’s 22. Butterworth finished with 15 points, Noah Chambers had 13 and Jason Jones added 12. A.J. Onder chipped in with eight points.
Bald Eagle Area’s starting five each scored in the first quarter.
The victory started with defense, but Butterworth was also encouraged by the balanced scoring effort.
“When we were winning in the beginning, we were more balanced,” Butterworth said. “And then the four-game losing streak, it was like one or two guys were scoring and the other three were low single digits or high single digits. We just got a little bit more balance tonight.”