KETTERING — Name any of the cold weather sports cliches you can think of and that would probably apply to the Lady Eagles in their game against Southwestern Buckeye League rival Oakwood (8-8, 4-4 SWBL) Thursday night. Nothing would fall for Bellbrook, but aggressive defense and physical play helped them pull out a 40-32 road win over the Jills.
“When it isn’t going in the hoop, you better play some defense,” Bellbrook head coach Jason Tincher said. “We’ve talked about it because the first half of the season wasn’t nearly where we wanted to be, but we know going into the tournament that you have to play defense.”
It’s a good thing the Bellbrook girls (12-4, 7-2 SWBL) are so good on defense, because they shot a combined 5-27 at the half, and the game was tied at 13. They were getting high-percentage looks, but shots just were not falling. Only three players scored before the break, and Tincher knew his team needed to pick it up on the offensive end.
“Thirteen points at halftime is nice, but we just weren’t scoring,” he said. “I think we’re getting more of a toughness about us. We’re trying to build and get better, and tonight was one of those nights where we needed to toughen up.”
You could tell that the Lady Eagles got the message. Senior forwards Chea Taylor and Emily Smith were coordinating during warmups before the second half, and whatever they were planning worked. Bellbrook scored 20 points in the third quarter and held the Jills to just seven. Taylor had 13 points, seven rebounds and six steals in the game, with the majority of her scoring done in the second half. Smith also had a good half, scoring seven of her 11 points to go along with six total rebounds.
The Lady Eagles led 33-20 at the beginning of the fourth quarter and a big part of that was turnovers. They pressed Oakwood up the floor and constantly shifted in halfcourt sets and annoyed the Jills all night. They unofficially caused 18 turnovers, something Tincher credited to their execution of the defensive gameplan.
“This is a small floor, so it’s a great gym to press in. You’re never really out of it defensively. You’re kind of packed in there, so you can trap and press a little bit more and that’s usually been to our benefit,” he said. “That caused them some problems. They threw it away in some unforced errors with our press.”
But Bellbrook’s shooting woes would return in the fourth quarter and Oakwood went on a 10-3 run to make it 36-30 with a minute and a half left in the ballgame. Oakwood sophomore Lauren Taylor and senior Georgie Murdock both scored in double figures with 12 and 10 points respectively. The Lady Eagles were getting to the free throw line, but they couldn’t convert, finishing 5-18 from the stripe.
“That’s what allowed them to stay in it, and those are frustrating,” said Tincher when asked about free throws. “It’s mental and then it just starts snow balling. I don’t think it would have been as close if we stepped up and made our free throws because they were fouling”
Oakwood would get it as close as four points with a minute left, but a steal and putback by Taylor after a missed free throw would seal the victory for the Lady Eagles.
Bellbrook has a quick return to action when they host Monroe at 7:15 p.m. Saturday at Bellbrook High School.