LEBANON — In a game that had Bellbrook coach Jason Tincher feeling awfully proud of the entire team effort, the Golden Eagles fought off a determined Wilmington comeback to claim a 35-34 Division II girls basketball sectional tournament title, Thursday, Feb. 23 at Lebanon High School.
Cassidy Hofacker played through the game with a cut on her neck, but still battled her way to a game-high 18 points. Kayla Paul might’ve only scored four points in the contest, but her second score proved to be the winning ones. And Brooklyn Hall may have scored one fourth-quarter free throw, but her game-saving steal in the game’s final seconds enabled Bellbrook to escape with the win.
“Cassidy is Cassidy. She does a lot of great things for our team. But I’m telling you what, we have a team. Someone stepped up and scored for us, and they were all playing defense, our seniors and juniors with their leadership. We needed it all.” Tincher said. “… That was a good team we played tonight.”
Bellbrook (21-3) had held a 27-18 lead with 3:53 left to play in the third quarter, but Wilmington went on a 7-0 run to close out the quarter and pull back to withing two points (27-25) with eight minutes of exciting basketball yet to play.
Mya Jackson’s 3-pointer from the left wing evened things up at 30-all with 1:13 left to play, but Kayla Paul’s jumper from the left put the Golden Eagles out front 35-33 with 36.9 ticks left on the clock.
With Bellbrook’s fans screaming to a deafening roar, the Hurricane’s Katlyn Jamiel could hit the second of two free-throw tries with 31.5 to go to pull Wilmington within a point, 35-34.
Wilmington worked the ball to Bellbrook’s baseline and called timeout with 8.2 seconds to go, to set up a game-winning play. But Bellbrook’s Hall did her best John Havlicek impression instead. Hall stole the ball and raced to the other end of the court as time expired.
Her teammates then swarmed around her in celebration. Bellbrook had escaped with a win.
Wilmington first-year coach Zach Williams appeared to choke back tears as he described how hard his Hurricane players had played.
“We know the future can be bright. You have to take and learn something from this loss, come back, and come back stronger the next time,” Williams said. “I’m very pleased. I was unsure of what I was getting into, when I took this job. But I couldn’t ask for a better group of girls to coach. I’m very proud of each of them.”
While the Hurricane lose senior Emily Edingfield, the rest of the team will be back. Including sharpshooting Jackson, who finished with a team-high 16 points, and a very talented post player in Leah Frisco (eight points). Wilmington ends its season with a 19-6 mark.
Bellbrook will now play the winner of Saturday’s Feb. 25th Tecumseh Upper Bracket sectional final at noon, between Tipp City Tippecanoe and Trotwood-Madison.
The Golden Eagles will meet up with that game’s winner in the district final, which is set for Friday, March 3 at Mason High School.
You can reach John Bombatch at 937-372-4444, Ext. 2123.