LORETTO - The Bellwood-Antis Lady Blue Devils learned a tough lesson in their first trip to the District 6 Class AA finals under coach Jim Swaney.
Near perfection is nearly impossible to beat.
Blairsville shot 25-of-27 from the foul line and didn't miss until the fourth quarter in a 71-61 triumph over B-A Saturday at DeGol Arena.
"It was so difficult," Bellwood's Ana Hollen said. "It seemed like every time we started to go on a run, they got to the free-throw line and ended it."
To make matters worse for Bellwood-Antis, it played 12 minutes of the first half without leading scorer Katy Leamer, who eventually fouled out with 1:19 to play and B-A down by eight.
"It was terrible," Leamer said. "I feel like I let the team down. I mean, I don't know. I just have no words to describe how bad I feel."
Despite the loss, Bellwood-Antis will continue its season in the PIAA Class AA playoffs and play the third-place team from District 7 on Friday at a District 7 site.
"We're going to take a couple days off, and we're going to realize there are only 32 Class AA teams left playing in the state, and we're one of them," Swaney said. "We know we have a good basketball team. We just ran into another really good team, and they won tonight."
The game started off well for the Lady Blue Devils.
Hollen connected on a layup and hit a 3-pointer to give Bellwood a 7-2 lead, but Chelsey Koren scored the first two of her team-high 23 points for Blairsville with 1:44 left in the first quarter to give the Lady Bobcats a lead they never gave up.
"Everybody on the floor for us had a ton of playoff experience, even from last year," said Blairsville coach Ralph McGinnis, whose team won the AA consolation game last season and advanced into the state playoffs. "I thought it would help us, but early on they hit the big shots and we didn't but we never panicked."
Along with Koren's 23 points, the 5-foot-11 sophomore had a game-high 11 rebounds.
"The biggest problem we had was [Koren]," Swaney said. "She just dominated portions of the game both on the glass and in scoring."
The Lady Blue Devils trailed by as many as 14 points early in the fourth quarter until an 11-2 run featuring a pair of Hollen 3-pointers brought B-A within five with 5:22 to go. Hollen, a sophomore who started as a freshman, led all scorers with 25 points.
"I've told a lot of people that in two years Ana Hollen is going to be a Division I player," Swaney said. "She did nothing tonight to make me go away from that statement. She's just an incredible talent. She's an incredible kid and a kid who gives you 110 percent every time she steps on the floor."
Leamer scored eight of her 16 points in the fourth quarter, but Bellwood never got closer than five points thanks to the Lady Bobcats' precision from the foul line.
"It was so hard," Leamer said. "They were an incredible free-throw shooting team, and we knew that, but I don't know. It just wasn't our night."
Blairsville point guard Mackenzie Livingston was in some foul trouble of her own, picking up three in the first half, but the 5-foot-7 senior never fouled again and seven of her 15 points after Bellwood pulled within five in the fourth quarter.
"We've really been getting it done from the line in the playoffs," McGinnis said. "Every time they made a shot, they'd have to foul and we'd come down and make two free throws. The girls just did a tremendous job."
Bellwood-Antis slipped to 24-2, and both of its losses came against District 6 champions, the other coming in the regular season against Class A champion Bishop Guilfoyle.
"Katy [Leamer] is a huge part of our offense, and when we lost all of that offense ...," Hollen said. "We're going to take this as a learning experience, and we're going to go to states and kick some butt."
BELLWOOD-ANTIS (61): Hollen 8 6-6 25, Ka. Leamer 7 0-1 16, Swogger 2 4-8 9, Ke. Leamer 2 0-0 4, Damiano 0 1-2 1, Mercer 3 0-0 6, Finn 0 0-0 0, Showalter 0 0-0 0. Totals 22 11-17 61.
BLAIRSVILLE (71): Livingston 5 5-6 15, Boyer 0 6-6 6, Kanyan 1 5-6 7, O'Barto 4 4-4 12, Koren 9 5-5 23, Sharp 3 0-0 8. Totals 22 25-27 71.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Bellwood-Antis9 11 16 25 - 61
Blairsville13 15 21 22 - 71
3-pointers: Bellwood-Antis 6 (Hollen 3, Ka. Leamer 2, Swogger). Blairsville 2 (Sharp 2)
Records: Bellwood-Antis (24-2); Blairsville (24-1).
Officials: Gary Zimmerman, Tom Fountaine, Denny Grambling.