It was a rough start to the season for the Bellefonte girls’ basketball team, but the last three weeks have seen a different team wearing red and white.
The Lady Red Raiders have turned up the pace in their games, the girls are showing more confidence on the court and it has produced victories.
With a big second-quarter run, Bellefonte pulled away from Philipsburg-Osceola 63-51 Friday night.
“It was a great team win,” said Jess Book, who had a huge night with 17 points, 17 rebounds and six assists. “Everyone contributed. This has been a turning point for us. The past few games we’ve really stepped it up.”
The Lady Red Raiders (5-11) earned their fourth win in the last six games, starting with a victory over rival Bald Eagle Area on Jan. 12.
“We’ve changed our attitude the last two weeks,” Bellefonte coach Adam Gearhart said. “We’ve gone with a more aggressive style offensively and defensively, and the girls have bought in.”
The aggressive play has produced an average of 52 points a game in the last four contests, with Friday’s score matching their season-high point total.
“The girls have adopted it,” Gearhart said. “They’ve taken it and they’ve enjoyed playing this style. I wish I would have done it sooner. The up-tempo, the man (-to-man defense), the pressing, they’ve bought into it and enjoyed doing it.”
Gearhart enjoyed looking at the scoreboard at P-O, which lists the individual scoring numbers for everyone on the court.
He saw Mara Tamminga net 11 points, with nine for Ally Steen and eight apiece for Marissa Moriarta and Lexi Wetzler.
“I kept looking at the scoreboard, and I was like, ‘Boy we’re balanced scoring tonight,’” Gearhart said. “We’ve been looking for that. That’s the talent we have, we just haven’t been getting that the first half of the season.”
Leah McCartney, in her first game back from an injury, also pulled down 11 rebounds for Bellefonte.
Abby Showers powered P-O (6-9) with 19 points, Haylee Hayward added 11 points and seven rebounds and Madison Foreman grabbed five rebounds.
The up-tempo game turned the Lady Raiders’ way on a Steen 3-pointer with 25 seconds left in the first quarter.
That basket gave Bellefonte the lead for good at 17-15 and started an 11-0 run. Steen scored again on a mid-range jumper to start the second quarter, and Wetzler had back-to-back baskets, the first of which when she was left all alone for a back-door pass. Book then grabbed a defensive rebound and raced coast-to-coast for a layup.
“They were slipping our screens, and girls (were) wide open underneath the basket,” P-O coach Doug Myers said. “I just think the communication broke down real bad. We’ve got to work on that as soon as we can.”
A scoring drought of 5:44 for the Lady Mounties ended the run briefly, but Bellefonte kept up the pressure, capping the period with back-to-back 3-pointers for Tamminga and a drive along the baseline for Book layup.
It was a run of 21-4 since late in that first quarter, and could have been worse if Book’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer had not bounced off the basket support bars before dropping through the net.
“We were in our press, so we got a lot of turnovers for us,” Book said. “Then we kept pushing it. We got layups, which we like, of course, and the momentum just carried us.”
The lead grew as large as 18 points in the second half, but P-O did not go quietly. Twice the margin was sliced to as little as nine points when Showers turned steals into points. The first was a 3-pointer with 5:20 left in the fourth, and the second was a layup with 1:43 left, but that was as close as the Lady Mounties would get.
“We can’t let them get confidence,” Gearhart said. “Showers and Hayward are good players, and if you give them an ounce of confidence, it’s going to turn into a pound of confidence, and that’s going to turn into a ton of confidence.”
“It just takes so much energy to get back into the game,” Myers said. “Defensively we didn’t play well defensively tonight. I’m not sure if we weren’t communicating as good as we (should).”
It helped that the Lady Red Raiders are now playing with plenty of confidence.
“A couple weeks ago we were playing scared, we were backing off,” Gearhart said. “They’ve bought into this, ‘Let’s be more aggressive, let’s go at the other team. Let’s put them on their heels instead of us playing on ours.”