CLAYSBURG - Defending Inter-County Conference North champion Bellwood-Antis has a bit of a target on its back.
And coach Jim Swaney knows it.
He also knows his Lady Blue Devils' toughest competition within the division this season could quite possibly be Claysburg-Kimmel.
Thursday night's matchup with the Lady Bulldogs had the makings of a marquee early-season thriller.
But Bellwood found a bit of fourth-quarter momentum, and behind Karson Swogger's game-high 20 points, picked up its first win of the season with a 51-43 victory over Claysburg.
"Claysburg is a nice team," Swaney said. "Their kids play hard. We knew that they'd certainly be our chief competition in this half of the league. We were prepared for a battle. They certainly gave it to us."
The Lady Blue Devils (1-2, 1-0 ICC North) were able to hit their stride early in the fourth quarter after building a five-point lead through three.
Anna Lynn capped off an 8-0 run with a steal and a three-point play that essentially put the game out of reach.
"That's our strength," Swaney said of his team's ability to score off of turnovers. "We play four guards a lot. We think we're pretty quick. Our strength in certainly to get out and play the passing lanes, get some easy baskets for ourselves.
"As has been the theme for us all year, I'd like to see us score a little more. We're missing way too many foul shots. We're missing way too many layups. I'm not so sure we shouldn't have stretched out that lead late. We just didn't. We've got to be able to finish once we have a team on the ropes."
The Lady Bulldogs (2-2, 0-1) could never fully recover, though, and never got within seven points over the final six minutes.
"[The spurt] had a lot to do with [disrupting our offense]," Claysburg-Kimmel coach Jeff Appleman said. "It put a lot of pressure on us. Instead of just making a basket, we had to get 13 points. I tried to tell them that we had to make one basket at a time. We missed some opportunities to score, we missed some free-throws and that was the ball game.
"They're a good team. If you get down 10 [points] to them, it's going to be tough to climb back."
Swogger, a highly-regarded freshman who has somewhat struggled out of the gate this season, scored the first five points of the pivotal run, and had nine of her career-high 20 points in the final quarter. She drained four 3-pointers on the night.
"Karson Swogger had a very nice game," Swaney said. "If there's a better freshman in this area, I haven't seen her. She's a player, and she's going to get better. She's a kid who is very hard on herself, but she certainly can do a lot of things out on the basketball court. Offensively, she's a very gifted kid."
"We were 0-2, so it's finally good to have a win," Swogger said. "I get in the gym a lot. Hard work pays off. If you want to do well, you have to put the time in and practice."
On her final bucket of the night, a runner with 1:36 to play, Swogger landed on someone's foot and rolled her ankle. The injury didn't appear to be serious.
"I think it's just a sprain," she said. "I'll be OK."
Despite its second loss in as many nights, Claysburg-Kimmel had a balanced offensive presence.
Abby Kulick led the Lady Bulldogs with 11 points, Kari Glass and Elizabeth Weiland each had nine, and Madison Ickes - who fouled out with 3:44 to play - added eight. Ana Hollen had 13 points for Bellwood.
"That was a hard-fought game," Appleman said. "It was a well-played game. It was ragged at times, but there was a lot of intensity from both teams."
Bellwood, meanwhile, finally cracked the win column after a pair of close losses this past weekend.
"For us, it's easy for people to say that we were 24-3 last year, we've got four starters back - 'Hey, we ought to just plow through everything,'" Swaney said. "But every year is different, and we still haven't found our offense.
"[The win over Claysburg is] even more important because it's on the road. Even though it was very good competition, we don't think we played as well as we could have."
BELLWOOD-ANTIS (51): Hollen 5 2-7 13, B. Swogger 2 1-2 6, K. Swogger 7 2-2 20, Leamer 2 3-4 7, Damiano 0 0-2 0, Showalter 0 0-0 0, Lynn 2 1-3 5, Crider 0 0-0 0, Carles 0 0-0 0. Totals - 18-50 9-20 51.
CLAYSBURG-KIMMEL (43): Burk 1 0-0 2, Locke 1 2-3 4, Glass 4 0-0 9, Kulick 3 2-2 11, Ickes 3 2-4 8, Weiland 4 1-3 9, Walter 0 0-0 0. Totals - 16-51 7-12 43.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Bellwood-Antis13 13 10 15 - 51
Claysburg-Kimmel12 13 6 12 - 43
3-point goals: Bellwood-Antis 6-22 (K. Swogger 4, B. Swogger, Hollen); Claysburg-Kimmel 4-15 (Kulick 3, Glass).
Records: Bellwood-Antis (1-2, 1-0 ICC North), Claysburg-Kimmel (2-2, 0-1 ICC North).