BELLWOOD - Returning four starters and 10 letterwinners from last year's 20-4 squad, coach Jim Swaney has high expectations for his Bellwood-Antis Lady Blue Devils this year.
If their season opener is any indication, Swaney's team stands to make their coach pretty happy.
Bellwood jumped out to an early 10-2 lead and never looked back, cruising to a 69-43 win over Tyrone Satuday night in their home opener.
The Lady Blue Devils used a smothering full-court press and tight on-ball pressure to force 24 Lady Golden Eagle turnovers, 15 of which came in the first half and 11 in the second quarter alone.
The home team's relentless defense was no accident. Swaney said his top "key to win" on the locker-room board read "Create tempo with pressure."
"We were ready for their press," Tyrone coach Luke Rhoades said. "We just didn't execute. They're very fast, very disciplined."
He added that it was tough to replicate Bellwood's pressure in practice.
The success of that pressure was due in large part to the efforts of Bellwood's backcourt duo of Ana Hollen and Ellen Crook.
Crook collected five steals and six points before leaving the court with a knee injury after a collision at around the three-minute mark of the fourth quarter, with her team leading 65-43.
She was wearing a brace on the knee after an ACL tear during the 2010-2011 season. Visibly upset, Swaney said the team would have to wait and see how badly the junior guard was injured.
"It's a blow for us because she's our point guard; she's our leader," he said. "She creates a lot for us with her defense and her pressure. It's hard to replace the intangibles she brings."
Bellwood complemented its defensive play with a balanced attack on offense. Hollen, a sophomore, finished with a game-high 20 points while senior Katy Leamer added 15 points and six assists.
Junior Bailey Swogger added 13 points, four steals, and seven rebounds. Sophomore Selena Damiano chipped in 11 points and seven boards.
Tyrone, which wore pink uniforms for breast cancer awareness, stayed with the Lady Blue Devils in the first quarter, trailing by just five with 20 seconds left in the period.
Then Hollen drilled one of her five 3-pointers to put Bellwood up 19-11 to end the quarter, and Tyrone never got any closer. The Lady Blue Devils kept extending their lead. With her team up by 10 two minutes into the second quarter, Crook hit a 3-pointer and then stole Tyrone's inbounds pass, dishing it to Leamer for a layup and giving the home team a comfortable lead they never relinquished.
Tyrone had some trouble finding the rim in the first half, shooting just 26 percent from the field. The second half saw the Lady Golden Eagles put up just 12 shots, eight of which fell. Nicole Gripp led Tyrone with 15 points while Alayna Hettinger added 10. Freshman Finnley Christine came off the bench for nine.
"We need more out of our starting lineup point-wise," Rhoades said. "[Bellwood] is one of the top teams in [Class]-AA. We know what we need to work on if we want to be competitive in the playoffs."
"Our goals are very simple," Swaney said. "We're a veteran basketball team. We believe we should be challenging for league and district titles."
TYRONE (43): Gripp 4 4-4 15, Brooks 0 0-2 0, Hettinger 4 2-2 10, Taylor 2 2-2 4, Swogger 2 1-4 5,hristine 3 2-2 9, Hammond 0 0-0 0, Raftery 0 0-0 0, Noll 0 0-0 0, Kemp 0 0-0 0. Totals - 15 11-16 43.
BELLWOOD-ANTIS (69): Crook 2 0-0 6, Hollen 8 0-0 20, Ka. Leamer 7 1-2 15, Swogger 3 5-8 13, Damiano 5 1-2 11, Finn 1 0-0 2, Showalter 1 0-0 2, Ke. Leamer 0 0-0 0, Mercer 0 0-0 0, Claar 0 0-0 0. Totals - 27 7-12 69.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Tyrone11 5 15 12 - 43
Bellwood-Antis19 20 14 16 - 69
3-point goals: Tyrone 4 (Gripp 3, Christine); Bellwood-Antis 9 (Crook 2, Swogger 2, Hollen 5).
Records: Tyrone (0-1); Bellwood-Antis (1-0).