SPRINGFIELD — Playing with a defensive intensity they’ve become known for, the Bellbrook Golden Eagles earned themselves a trip to the Division II state girls basketball Final Four, with an exciting 47-41 win over state-ranked Tipp City Tippecanoe, Friday March 9 at Springfield High School.
The upstart Golden Eagles withstood a Tippecanoe second-half rally, then came through with some key free throws — and when they missed — some key offensive rebounds in the final minutes to knock off the state’s No. 4-ranked team.
“We’ve been pushing each other really hard every single game, and we’ve just been working really hard on defense. Defense has helped us win these games,” said senior Cassidy Hofacker, who was instrumental, like her teammates were in making key defensive stops that appeared to frustrate the Red Devils.
Bellbrook trailed 39-37 with 5:12 left to play in the game when Tippecanoe’s Maddie Frederick, Allison Mader and Cali Stewart combined scores to give the Red Devils a 7-0 scoring run to start the final period of play.
But where most teams would wilt under that kind of a late-game scoring binge, Bellbrook just got meaner.
First, Kayla Paul hit the first of two free throws to pull Bellbrook to within one point (38-39).
Then Bekah Vine scored off a Hofacker steal to put the Golden Eagles back on top, 40-39.
After an Olivia Greathouse made free throw, Bellbrook had a three-point lead with 1:41 to go.
Frederick hit one more free throw, despite chants of “over-rated” by the Whited Out Bellbrook student section, to pull the Red Devils to within 42-40.
A pair of Hofacker free throws, countered by one by Tippecanoe’s Brooke Aselage left the birds out in front44-40 with 1:27 to play.
Then Bellbrook took over the offensive rebounds after some missed free throws. Kayla Paul grabbed the first off a Hofacker miss to keep possession of the ball. Then Greathouse snared an offensive board after a Maria Mescher free-throw miss.
“I just had to get those rebounds and I had to finish (despite foul trouble). I had to finish the game, because I knew we were going to state. I did what I had to do,” Greathouse said. “Defensively, we just have to be all over the place. If we can have great defense, we’re going to be just fine.”
Brooklynn Hall led Bellbrook (19-8) with 12 points scored, Hofacker was next with 10, Vine tossed in seven, Maren Freudenschuss scored six, Greathouse added four points, Paul scored three, and Mescher scored two.
In an understandable moment of exuberance, Bellbrook coach Jason Tincher jumped into the student section in celebration.
“They’ve gotten better and better (at defense), and we’ve been playing good teams,” Tincher said. “We know we’re getting better when we break it down on the game film. We’re not the same team we were. We’re a good defensive team, but now we’re meshing more.
“They just were not going to be denied. There’s such a grit with this group. It’s a not-gonna-be-denied group. They love the underdog role. We’re 12-1 in the last 13 games, and playing as good as any team I’ve ever coached….”
Frederick led Tippecanoe (25-3) with a game-high 19 points. Four other Red Devils combined for the other 22. Tippecanoe lost for the fourth year in a row in the regional semis.
“It’s frustrating,” Devils coach Andy Holderman said. “We’ve been preaching all year long: You’ve gotta make layups and you’ve gotta make free throws. We didn’t do enough of either tonight.”
With the win, Bellbrook advances to play in the state semifinals. That game is scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday, March 16 at the Jerome Schottentein Center, on the Ohio State University campus in Columbus. The Golden Eagles will take on the winner between Akron St. Vincent St. Mary (19-7) or No. 3-ranked Gates Mills Gilmour Academy (23-3).
Contact John Bombatch at 937-372-4444, Ext. 2123.