BELLWOOD - Despite a sluggish start on the offensive end, Bellwood-Antis coach Jim Swaney was never worried during Saturday afternoon's clash against Claysburg-Kimmel.
Swaney knows his team makes its mark with tough man-to-man defense, and the Lady Blue Devils held the Lady Bulldogs to less than 40 points in a decisive 61-37 victory.
"We've played good defense all year. Ana [Hollen] and Kelly [Leamer] are great on-ball defenders, and today they really made it tough on Claysburg's guards. I was really pleased with everyone's effort on the defensive end," Swaney said.
"We haven't seen a team play man-to-man defense like that all season; they completely took us out of what we wanted to do," Claysburg-Kimmel coach Jeff Appleman said.
The win was Bellwood's second over Claysburg and gave the Lady Blue Devils a commanding two-game lead in the ICC North standings.
The game was tight through much of the first half as both teams struggled to find a groove on offense. Claysburg's 3-2 zone defense forced Bellwood guards Hollen and Karson Swogger into some uncharacteristic turnovers, but the Lady Bulldogs couldn't capitalize on the offensive end.
"I thought it was really competitive in the first half and we played hard. In fact, I think we outplayed them for much of the second quarter. We just couldn't put the ball in the basket," Appleman said.
After heading to the half up eight points, the Lady Blue Devils, and especially Hollen, found their groove in the third quarter. Bellwood opened the quarter on a 19-4 run as it pulled away. Hollen led the way, scoring 10 of her game-high 25 points in the stanza.
"It was all about ball movement. The game started out kind of slow for us, but once we settled down and starting moving the ball we were good," Hollen said.
"We let the emotion of the game get to us a little bit early, and at halftime we talked about playing our game and I think we did a much better job of that starting in the second half," Swaney said.
Swaney was effusive in his praise of junior guard Kelly Leamer, who held Claysburg guard Paige Burk to nine points.
"Kelly was fantastic on defense; she never let Burk get a good look from deep. Burk can really shoot it and has unlimited range, and I thought Kelly was all over her," Swaney said.
Leamer also added nine points. Freshman guard Karson Swogger posted a double-double for Bellwood with 11 points and 12 big rebounds.
Madison Ickes scored 12 points for the Lady Bulldogs.
With a two-game division lead it would take something unexpected for Bellwood to not advance to the ICC final, but Swaney wants his team to stay focused and continue to improve as it heads toward the playoffs.
"We need to worry about getting better each day and competing against ourselves,'' Swaney said.
For Claysburg the goal is to finish strong and get ready for the Class A playoffs.
"We've only lost two conference games, both to Bellwood, and we think we can finish off the regular season strong. We are looking forward toward playoffs now," Appleman said.
CLAYSBURG-KIMMEL (37): Kulick 0 7-12 7, Ickes 4 4-7 12, Locke 0 0-2 0, Glass 2 0-0 5, Burk 3 0-0 9, Weiland 2 0-3 4, Walter 0 0-0 0, Imler 0 0-0 0. Totals: 11 11-24 37.
BELLWOOD-ANTIS (61): B. Swogger 0 4-4 4, K. Swogger 3 2-2 11, Hollen 9 5-7 25, Damiano 1 2-2 4, Leamer 4 0-0 9, Lynn 2 4-5 8, Carles 0 0-3 0, Claar 0 0-0 0. Totals: 19 17-23 61.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Claysburg-Kimmel10 9 7 11 - 37
Bellwood-Antis16 11 19 15 - 61
3-point goals: Claysburg-Kimmel (Burk 3, Glass); Bellwood-Antis (K. Swogger 3, Hollen 2, Leamer).
Records: Claysburg-Kimmel (13-4); Bellwood-Antis (14-2).