KETTERING — More than advancing in the Division II section tournament, Bellbrook’s Donnie Tate is happy the accomplishment his team has made with its latest win.
The victory against Milton Union at Trent Arena on Tuesday was the Golden Eagles’ 16th of the season. It has been more than a decade since a Bellbrook team has reached that total.
“Just seeing our schedule and we put together a treacherous one for our guys, I did not think we would win 15 games because of the competition that we played,” Tate said. “With our schedule if we only had 10 wins or 12 wins, then that would be a heckuva year. To get 16 wins and as we were talking about the other day not to have any back to back losses either, its been the ability to bounce back after each loss in the next game.”
Bellbrook wasn’t challenged in the fourth quarter of its 64-40 victory. The Bulldogs, the No. 9-seed and co-champions of the TRC, were held without a field goal for an almost eight-minute stretch starting late in the third. It allowed a 10-2 run to occur and let Bellbrook pull away.
Tate again credited the team’s schedule to prepare it for tournament play. Bellbrook faced the likes of Oakwood and Franklin twice in league play, while beefing up outside of the SWBL against the likes of Beavercreek, Moeller, Chaminade Julienne and Ponitz CTC.
“I like that one we keep trying to sell to these guys the schedule that we played would help them win games like this,” Tate said. “The physicality of playing those teams as well as their athleticism and quickness, we have seen all of it before. They have confidence that they can perform. Our defense had not been great lately so that’s a good sign.”
Bellbrook (16-8) had to make a late comeback in its D-II tournament opener on Saturday against Kenton Ridge, but got off to a better start against Milton Union.
Carson Labensky was a big factor early on, scoring the first 14 points of the game for Bellbrook in the initial six minutes of action until he checked out.
Labensky ended the game with 20 points to lead all scorers.
“We want to go nine deep generally and have guys that can shoot and score, but he’s a matchup nightmare for some teams with him being big and strong and growing up playing the guard spot,” Tate said. “He can still shoot it well and handle it well, but also score in the paint with his back to the basket. It was good to see him get off to a good start.”
Milton Union never led after gaining a 4-2 advantage in the opening minutes, but got as close as three late in the first half before Gabe Pavlak got involved on the offensive end. The 6-foot, 6-inch forward used his size as the tallest player on the court to fight through double teams and help build up his team’s lead.
His uncontested breakaway dunk put an exclamation point on the first half and had the Golden Eagles up nine at the break.
“We said before the game if Carson and Gabe can make threes and make them come out and extend on us, that would be a good thing for us,” Tate said. “Except for the 14 turnovers in the first half, we had to battle through those.”
The Bulldogs never got closer than seven the remainder of the way as the Bellbrook defense never let an uncontested look at the basket get off.
Ten players in all got on the scoreboard, including 13 by Pavlak and nine from Austin Webb.
Tate said the effort in the second half without the ball epitomized how he has seen his players want to get better each day. He believes the performance was a good lesson to see how things can work out after the grind to get to this point in the season.
Despite the grind already fought through, the road doesn’t get easier for the Golden Eagles. Seeded eighth in the tournament, Bellbrook next has a date with No. 1 Alter on Friday at 7:30 p.m. back at Trent Arena for a trip to a district final. A win would give Bellbrook its first sectional title since prior to 2010.
Alter is 21-2 overall and came in second amongst D-II teams on the final state AP poll released this season. It has not been challenged recently, winning 14 straight games and all by at least 12 points.
“Alter is on another level right now,” Tate said. “They’re a really good basketball team. It’s gonna be a good challenge for the players as well as the coaching staff to try to put something together to keep us in this game.
Contact Steven Wright at 937-502-4498 and follow on Twitter @Steven_Wright_.