By John Bombatch
SPRINGFIELD — All good seasons have to come to an end.
On Tuesday night, Bellbrook’s undefeated season did just that as defending Division II state champ Kettering Alter claimed a 59-40 win in the regional semifinals at Springfield High School.
Alter (25-2), the state’s no. 1-ranked team in the final Associated Press regular season poll, held leads of 15-5 and 20-9 in the first half, but Bellbrook (26-1) was able to battle back to cut the deficit to just five points at 27-22 at halftime.
With just over a minute left to play in the third quarter, the Golden Eagles, ranked third in that same D-II poll, were back within striking distance when Bekah Vine drained a 3-pointer from the right wing to pull Bellbrook to within 39-35.
But like all good teams do, Alter found a way to respond with a 5-0 run, which included Braxtin Miller’s 3-pointer from the left corner as time expired in the third quarter.
But that was just the beginning of an improbable scoring run for the Alter Knights.
The defending champs extended the scoring spree by scoring the first 10 points of the final quarter to take command with a 54-35 lead.
With the game’s 8 p.m. start time, Bellbrook coach Jason Tincher and Alter coaches Christina Hart and Kendel Peck were unavailable before presstime to comment.
Alter had three players score in double figures. Braxtin Miller led all scorers with 15 points while teammates Libby Bazalak and Hayley Combs finished with 14 each.
Bellbrook’s standout senior Gabby Ozoude finished with a team-high 11 points, Bekah Vine tossed in nine points, Cassidy Bereda scored eight, while Gabby Boyer and Stephanie Dorn scored five each in the loss.
Alter made its intent pretty obvious from the start: Shut down Ozoude and don’t let her get open underneath. With every Bellbrook trip down the floor, there were two Alter defenders guarding Ozoude whenever she was near the basket. The double coverage led Bellbrook’s guards to force several passes, and those led to several turnovers for the Knights.
Ozoude, the team’s only senior on the roster, did not score in the first half.
Alter will play Tipp City Tippecanoe (21-5), a 54-45 winner over Caledonia River Valley, in the regional final. That game is scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. tip-off, Friday at Springfield High.
The Knights defeated Toledo Rogers to win the state title last season, 57-42, in Columbus. They finished as the state runners up in 2014, losing in the final to Millersburg West Holmes.
Since the 2013-‘14 season, Alter has amassed an impressive 82-3 overall record.
John Bombatch can be reached at (937) 372-4444, Ext. 2123.