MASON — A torrid second-half effort just wasn’t enough to enable the Bellbrook Golden Eagles to defeat Tipp City Tippecanoe in Friday’s Division II district title game at Mason Arena.
And in the nightcap, Amanda Schroeder scored 23 points as Carroll rolled to a 59-28 win over Cincinnati Mariemont. (You’ll get a complete story on the Carroll game online.) the Patriots advance to play against Columbus Independence, at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday, March 7 at Springfield High School.
A cold shooting Bellbrook bunch couldn’t find the rim early on, and actually struggled throughout the contest. The Golden Eagles trailed 11-4 after one quarter of play, then trailed 23-14 at the half.
Bellbrook (22-4) chipped away at the Red Devils’ lead in the second half, but despite the Golden Eagles pulling to within a single point twice in the half, Tippecanoe stayed in front.
Cassidy Hofacker drained a 3-pointer with less than 10 seconds left to play, to pull Bellbrook within one point, 40-41, but the Devils’ top scorer, Cali Stewart, hit a pair of free throws with 3.5 seconds remaining to earn the win.
Hofacker got off a 3-point shot at the buzzer, but the ball bounced off the backboard and off the front of the rim.
“What a great win!” Tippecanoe coach Andy Holderman said. “Coming into the game, we knew if we could sustain their pressure we had a good shot. For the most part, we did handle it. There at the end, we tried to make it a bit closer than we needed to, but hats off to Bellbrook. They’re a quality program, and Jason (Tincher) has done a really nice job.
“I’m telling you what. They get after it and they play hard. We were fortunate enough to be on the winning end tonight.”
Holderman said he needed for his Tippecanoe team to get three players in double-figure scoring in order to have a shot at getting the win. As it turned out, Stewart finished with a game-high 14 points, Taylor Prall was next with 13 and Allison Mader finished with a dozen.
Bellbrook outscored Tippecanoe (23-3) by a 25-20 margin in the second half, including 15-11 in the final quarter, but could never get a go-ahead shot to fall.
Hofacker finished with a team-best 10 points, six of which came in the final quarter of play. Stephanie Dorn finished with eight points, Dani Westbrock and Bekah Vine each tossed in five points, while Nicole Cordonnier, Cassidy Bereda and Gigi Painter each finished with four points.
“You have two teams that come into the contest at 22-3, with that much intensity in this environment … both teams are going to do the very best they can, and try to cause the other to do a little less than you,” Bellbrook coach Jason Tincher said. “It was one of those games that maybe a tale of two halves. We just made too many mistakes to come up on top. Tipp City did enough to advance, and you’ve gotta take your hat off to them.”
Unoffically, Bellbrook hit 3 of its 17 (17.6 percent) 3-point tries in the contest. The Golden Eagles didn’t fare much better from the free-throw line, either. They converted half of their tries (7 of 14), for the game and converted three of eight free throws in the fourth quarter.
“We have some key kids coming back, and they have big-game experience,” Tincher said. “You’d like to think they got a taste of that, and that they understand that we can’t make the mistakes we made tonight. Too little too late. But the way they fought and battled to the end, I think that was just unbelievable. Right down to the end, they were giving it everything they had. And a lot of those kids are back, so they know we’ve gotta make free throws better and we can’t shoot as poorly as we did in the first half.
“We have to do little things to make big things happen, and I think they will.”
Dorn, Kylee Parker and Claire Fryman played their final high school girls basketball games, with the loss.
“Those three seniors were leaders. They’ll be missed. They won a lot of games here at Bellbrook. Every day in practice, they were there, they were leading and they developed a good bonding situation with this team and that helped create this success that we had. I just finished telling them, they’ll be missed,” Tincher said. “they’re quality kids from great families. They’re going to do great things.”
You can reach John Bombatch at 937-372-4444, Ext. 2123. For a complete story on the Carroll game, which ended too close to deadline to make this edition, please go to xeniagazette.com.