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Bellwood-Antis girls need overtime to get by Lady Eagles

The Bellwood-Antis Lady Blue Devils had been witness to predicaments similar to this one many times before.
Last season, the Lady Devils lost five games by eight points or less, so when Tyrone junior Hilary McNelis hit a three-point basket with three seconds – tying a game that B-A had led by 11 points in the second half – it would have been easy for Bellwood-Antis shrug the game off as just another close one it wasn’t meant to win.
But that doesn’t often happen on a team filled with as many talented and experienced seniors as the Lady Blue Devils have, and it never happens on a team coached by Nick Lovrich.
B-A turned to one of its seasoned veterans in overtime, and 6-foot senior Katie Gardner responded by scoring her team’s first six points – part of a team-high 23 – pushing the Lady Blue Devils past Tyrone 69-61 in both teams’ season-opener Saturday at the Tyrone Area High School gymnasium.
“We have four starters back from last year, and they’ve been in those situations before,” said Lovrich. “In the past, we’ve been on the losing end. So I think we’ve learned from those situations. We were still confident and we still thought we could get the job done.”
Gardner was one of three B-A seniors to reach double-digit scoring, along with Stephanie Hatch, who scored 14, and Ashley Edevane, who scored 16 and made Tyrone pay for double-teaming Gardner with three three-pointers.
As a team, the Lady Devils connected on seven bombs from beyond the arc, often with a hand in their face.
“We knew they were going to sag in and we just wanted to work the ball around and be patient,” Lovrich said. “We were hitting our outside shots. Stephanie Hatch hit a couple of big shots, Ashley Edevane, Rachel Meredith – we had all kinds of people step up and hit outside shots, and when it came crunch time, Katie finished.”
The Lady Eagles finished as well, perhaps with more consistency than most expected from a team that lost four starters to graduation, started three sophomores, and played four players whose varsity experience consisted of mop-up duties in blowouts last season.
McNelis led Tyrone with a game-high 25 points and pulled down 14 rebounds, while Emily McKenna scored a career-high 19, and kept the Lady Eagles close early with three three-pointers in the first half.
“We have a group of kids who believe that they can be good,” said Tyrone coach Jim Swaney. “Every ounce of effort we had, we left it out on the floor against a pretty good Bellwood basketball team.”
B-A’s patient approach on offense worked effectively in the first half, as the Lady Devils’ guards worked the ball around the perimeter, waiting for the right angle to feed Gardner, who was fronted in the paint constantly, and often double-teamed away from the ball.
Gardner responded by scoring 12 points by halftime, and when she couldn’t beat a double team she kicked the ball to an open guard. Edevane, Meredith and Hatch each hit three-pointers in the first half, giving B-A a cushion that reached seven points by the second quarter.
“We don’t have anyone that’s going to match with Gardner one on one,” said Swaney. “So we were going to collapse and swarm to the ball and to Meredith and Edevane and Hatch’s credit, when they kicked it out, they hit some threes. They stretched us pretty far with that and that was probably the basketball game.”
Bellwood-Antis led 36-31 at halftime.
Tyrone adjusted well to defending Gardner in the second half, limiting her to six points in the third and fourth quarters. McNelis scored six points in the third quarter and McKenna finished the frame with a basket in traffic plus a foul shot for a conventional three-point play that pulled the Lady Eagles within four, 50-46.
Tyrone continued to chip away in the fourth, limiting the Lady Devils to three field goals. Emily Lloyd’s jumper with 45 seconds left in regulation cut the Lady Devil’s lead to one (55-54), and after a Gardner basket with 19 seconds to play, McNelis popped off a double screen to the top of the key to drill a three-pointer that sent the game into overtime.
That’s where Gardner came alive, scoring twice inside to build B-A’s lead to four, 60-56. A steal and layup by Hatch made it 65-59 with 1:03 left, and the Lady Devils connected on four of seven foul shots down the stretch.
“I knew it was going to be close,” said Lovrich. “Bellwood-Tyrone is always a great rivalry. Throw experience, throw everything out the window. Coach Swaney had his kids ready. The McKenna girl, McNelis, they made some big shots, and they’re players.”
JUNIOR VARSITY
Tyrone had a 14-point cushion by halftime and held off a frenzied B-A rally to win the junior varsity game 37-30. Tiffany Bradford led Tyrone with nine points and six rebounds, while Sharon Long added eight points.
Jamie Smith led Bellwood-Antis with a game-high 13, while Lindsey Claar added 11, including a 9-for-9 performance at the foul line.
Tyrone (0-1) now travels to Indian Valley on Wednesday, Dec. 3 to opne Mountain League play, while Bellwood-Antis (1-0) hosts West Branch also on Wednesday evening. Junior varsity action begins at 6 p.m. for both games with varsity to follow at 7:30.
VARSITY
Bellwood-Antis 69 Tyrone 61
BELLWOOD-ANTIS – Sprankle 2 0-0 5; Edevane 5 3-4 16; Hatch 4 4-6 16; Meredith 3 2-3 9; Gardner 10 3-3 23; Swanson 0 0-0 0; Erickson 0 2-2 2; Ridgeway 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 24 14-18 69.
TYRONE – McNelis 10 4-4 25; McKenna 6 4-5 19; Wallace 1 2-3 3; Roth 0 0-0 0; Lloyd 3 0-0 6; Ingle 1 0-0 3; Hoover 1 3-4 5; Stanton 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 22 12-15 61.
Three Point Goals: Bellwood-Antis 7 (Edevane 3, Hatch 2, Meredith 1, Sprankle 1).
Tyrone 5 (McKenna 3, McNelis 1, Ingle 1).
Score by Quarters
Bellwood-Antis 17 19 14 7 12 – 69
Tyrone 10 21 15 11 4 – 61
JUNIOR VARSITY
BELLWOOD-ANTIS – Claar 1 9-9 11; Ralston 2 0-0 4; Sinlsi 0 0-2 0; Smith 4 3-9 13; Decker 0 0-2 0; Palmer 1 0-0 2; Riley 0 0-2 0. TOTALS: 8 14-24 30.
TYRONE – Ingle 1 3-6 5; Bradford 4 1-2 9; Stanton 1 0-2 2; Hoover 0 0-2 0; Walker 3 0-0 6; Glace 1 2-4 4; Long 3 2-4 8; Taylor 1 0-1 2; Benakovic 0 1-2 1. TOTALS: 15 9-23 37.
Three Point Goals: Bellwood-Antis 2 (Smith 2).
Tyrone 0.