CLAYSBURG - With his Southern Fulton squad trailing Bellwood-Antis by eight points at halftime of their Inter-County Conference championship game at Claysburg-Kimmel High School, Indians coach Kent Hendershot knew that his team had plenty of work to do entering the third quarter.
"Defensively, we had been letting their big guys get too many good looks, and that was killing us,'' Hendershot said. "But I was more disappointed with our offense than our defense. We missed a lot of good shots in the first half, and we wanted to come out strong in the third quarter.''
Southern Fulton proved successful in both areas, converting six of nine floor shots in the third period, which the Indians carried, 15-4. Southern Fulton also shut down Bellwood's inside game in the third quarter, providing the impetus for Southern's 46-43 victory.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Bellwood-Antis’ Seth?Worthing shoots on the run.
Southern Fulton put together a 13-point run at the outset of the third quarter to win its first conference title and improve its season record to 21-2.
"That changed the momentum of the game - that's what we needed,'' Hendershot said of the rally. "Defensively, we changed up on what we were doing and tightened up on the inside.''
Southern Fulton made six of nine floor shots in the third quarter, while Bellwood-Antis (18-5) converted just two of 10. Bellwood had led, 27-19 at intermission, but found itself trailing, 34-31 after three stops.
"We only scored four points in the third quarter,'' Bellwood coach Brent Gerwert said. "That's a tribute to what they did defensively against us. They were daring us to shoot, and we weren't hitting anything. We also had a lot of unforced turnovers, and you can't win games like this with so many unforced turnovers.''
Senior guards Seth Hall and Damon Gordon, along with junior guard Nick Smartt, sparked Southern's third-quarter turnaround. The trio accounted for all 15 of Southern's points in the period, with Gordon scoring three field goals for six points, Hall hitting two field goals for five points, and Smartt adding a field goal and two free throws for four points. In the game, Gordon scored a game-high 17, Hall added 15, and Smartt chipped in 10.
"Those three have led us in scoring all year,'' Hendershot said. "Damon and Seth are both three-year starters who have been playing a long time, and their leadership really showed tonight.''
Consecutive buckets by Hall and Gordon, along with a 3-pointer from Hall, pulled Southern to within one point, 27-26, before Smartt's reverse lay-in gave Southern the lead, 28-27 with 5:30 left in the third quarter. Smartt added two free throws to complete the run and make it a 30-27 game before Bellwood could finally stop the bleeding.
Southern's third-quarter outburst, while critically damaging, was not completely fatal for Bellwood, which managed to tie the game back up, 39-39 on consecutive 3-point shots by guards Alex Dionis and Josh Steffen in the fourth quarter.
Southern Fulton had the better of things the rest of the way, however, with Gordon's 3-ball from the top of the circle putting the Indians ahead to stay, 42-39 midway through the fourth.
Southern Fulton survived despite missing six of eight free throws down the stretch that would have put th game on ice.
"I thought we really shot ourselves in the foot with those missed free throws,'' Hendershot said. "Bellwood has a nice team. We let them hang around. We were very lucky. [The missed free throws] could have cost us the game.''
Bellwood big men Noah Davis, a junior, and David Wolfe, a senior, led the Blue Devils with 16 and 13 points, respectively. Davis' last-second 3-point try was a turnaround from the deep right wing that bounced off the side of the rim just before time expired.
"It was a contested shot, but it was an open look,'' Gerwert said. "We shouldn't have been in that situation to begin with. It was too little, too late for us in the fourth quarter. We have to work on getting better.''
Both teams enter playoff competition next week. Bellwood draws a first-round bye in the District 6-A tournament, then meets the winner of Tuesday's Marion Center/West Branch game in the second round next Friday. Southern Fulton hosts Fannett-Metal in the District 5-A playoffs next Thursday night.
BELLWOOD-ANTIS (43): Dionis 1 0-0 3, Steffen 2 2-2 7, Wolfe 6 0-0 13, Davis 8 0-2 16, Sinisi 1 0-0 2, Bartlett 0 0-0 0, O. Worthing 1 0-0 2, S. Worthing 0 0-0 0, Sisto 0 0-0 0. Totals - 19 2-4 43.
SOUTHERN FULTON (46): Hall 5 3-6 15, Gordon 8 0-2 17, Smartt 4 2-4 10, Ashkehle 0 0-0 0, Seburn 0 0-0 0, Litton 1 0-2 2, Fitz 0 0-0 0, Wertz 1 0-0 2. Totals - 19 5-14 46.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Bellwood-Antis11 16 4 12 - 43
Southern Fulton10 9 15 12 - 46
3-point goals: Bellwood-Antis 3 (Dionis, Steffen, Wolfe); Southern Fulton 3 (Hall 2, Gordon).
Records: Bellwood-Antis (18-5); Southern Fulton (21-2).
Officials: Skip Dry, Tim Hite, Doug Moore.