KETTERING — The final score does not accurately show the battle Bellbrook gave one of the state’s top teams for three quarters.
It also cannot show the questionable plays which may have helped put the game out of reach.
A 75-55 final on Friday at Trent Arena propels Alter into a Division II district final, but nothing about its win came easy until the end.
After leading through both the first and second quarters, Bellbrook trailed by four heading to the fourth. After a quick basket extended the lead to six, a hard contact play involving Gabe Pavlak and Jacob Conner stopped the action near the Alter basket.
As Pavlak approached Conner with an apologetic look on his face to help him up, a nearby official unaware of Pavlak’s intentions quickly ran over and called a technical foul on him.
Pavlak, Bellbrook’s bench and head coach Donnie Tate visibly upset after the call, Alter went on a 16-1 run to pull away and take firm control in the game’s final minutes.
“The technical foul that I did not agree with obviously led to a big run there,” Tate said. “You know in a situation like that with energy in the stands allowed them to get a couple buckets in a row and Jacob Conner is a great player. He went on his run after sitting out a little bit because foul trouble. We did a pretty good job on him but he kind of turned the game over from that point on.”
Bellbrook’s bench later was assessed a technical foul during the middle of the Alter scoring run.
Pavlak scored 16 points to lead Bellbrook in his final game as a senior, as well as eight points for Caleb Fugate. Austin Webb had nine.
Conner had 23 points for Alter, with the team’s leading scoring Anthony Ruffolo matching his average at 16.
A back and forth first half saw the lead change seven times. Bellbrook trailed 30-25 before a 9-0 run over the last 3:12 put the team up at halftime.
Bellbrook held Alter, ranked No. 2 in the final state AP poll, to five made three-pointers after the Knights came in averaging 12 per game. Neither team led by more than five points until Alter’s run in the fourth quarter.
Finishing with an 16-9 record, the Golden Eagles won its most games during a single season in more than a decade. It was also the team’s first sectional final appearance in a similar time frame.
Tate said while goals have always been set to try and defeat their league’s top teams and compete for SWBL titles, it would be selling his kids short to not think season’s such as this one could become the norm for the program.
“This should be the standard where you should be expected to be in this game every year for chances to be in that district title game,” he said. “So that’s what I told them. These six seniors I think are going to help turn that corner.
“The underclassmen below them see and believe what can be accomplished with togetherness that show love to each other, sticking to our core values. It was as a program changes you see a season for sure.”
Contact Steven Wright at 937-502-4498 and follow on Twitter @Steven_Wright_.