LEBANON — The first round of a high school sectional basketball tournament is often a ripe time for some first-game jitters and maybe an upset or two … unless you’re an experienced team like Bellbrook.
The No. 2 seeded Bellbrook Golden Eagles jumped out in front early, then used some smothering defense and plenty of scores at the other end to defeat Blanchester, 66-14, in the opening round of the Division II sectional at Lebanon High School.
Bellbrook (20-3) had watched top seed Kettering Alter dismantle Clarksville Clinton-Massie by a 56-11 margin in the evening’s opener. Golden Eagles coach Jason Tincher said watching that lopsided win may have helped motivate his team as well.
“I think we were already motivated, but just watching Alter play early it just reminds us that it is tournament time. And no matter who you’re playing or what round it is, it’s important to be ready. I was talking to Alter’s coach Kendal Peck before their game and we agreed, no matter what we’ve gotta get our kids motivated and get them out there and make sure that we’re doing things right. He agreed. I was very happy with how we played in our first tournament game.”
Bekah Vine started the scoring with a 3-pointer from the top of the arch barely a minute into the game. A subsequent score from Cassidy Bereda, then two more Vine buckets had the Golden Eagles quickly out in front 9-0 barely three minutes into the contest. Bellbrook led 15-3 after one quarter of play, 28-7 at the half … and then things got ugly.
Bellbrook opened the second half on a 17-0 run to take control, 45-7.
Tincher played his bench often, and got plenty of his non-starters into the contest. Vine finished with a game-high 11 points, but played sparingly in the second half. Cassidy Hofacker finished with 10 points and was held out of the final quarter, Bereda finished with nine, and Stephanie Dorn finished with eight.
“Not that we were in the game after the half, but when they went on that 17-0 run in the third quarter, I thought our energy kinda quit on us,” Blanchester coach Bennie Carroll said. “We came out ready to fight, and we battled as hard as we could, but the offensive inefficiency on our part killed us.
“And Bellbrook’s defense! They play that tough 1-2-2 match-up zone, and they get out and trap you on the wings, that wasn’t the greatest matchup for us to try and go against that. Obviously, they’re 20-3 for a reason. They’re a very good ball team, you gotta give them credit, too.”
Carroll wanted to thank his five seniors — Merri Lindsey, Emma Gundler, MacKenzie Miller, Sara Greene and Josie Farrow — for a terrific career. Blanchester finished the season with a 12-11 record, the second year in a row that the Ladycats finished with a winning record. He attributed his seniors’ effort for a lot of the team’s success. Junior Elecia Patton led Blanchester with five points scored.
Bellbrook returns to sectional tournament play at Lebanon High on Saturday. They’ll face No. 12 Dayton Stivers for a 4 p.m. second-round game.
“We played them here last year, and they do have a lot of their players back. They’re not a bad team, so we better be ready to go,” Tincher said.
You can reach John Bombatch at 937-372-4444, Ext. 2123.