LORETTO - Ana Hollen told anyone who would listen that the Bellwood-Antis girls basketball team was going to win a district title this year.
Hollen delivered on that promise, and stayed on the court to celebrate despite what seemed like a scary knee injury, as the Lady Blue Devils completely overwhelmed Juniata, 59-17, in the Class AA title game Saturday at St. Francis' DeGol Arena.
"We have worked so hard day in and day out," Hollen said. "We really wanted this so bad. Everyone on this team works and works, and it finally paid off. I couldn't be happier."
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Bailey Swogger puts up a shot in traffic for Bellwood-Antis.
Bellwood-Antis forced 32 turnovers and held the Lady Indians to just three field goals in the entire game. Juniata failed to score a single basket in the second or third quarter.
"We can defend, and we can defend the heck out of the ball," Bellwood-Antis coach Jim Swaney said. "That's where it all started tonight with the pressure defense. It was just outstanding defense."
The Lady Blue Devils, who came up short in the district final a year ago in a loss to Blairsville, seemed determined not to let it happen again and began the game on a 9-0 run.
Juniata responded with a 7-2 spurt to close within four, but the second quarter was all Bellwood.
The Lady Blue Devils held the Lady Indians to just one point and extended their lead to 19 at halftime.
The lone negative during the quarter was when Hollen collapsed with 58.6 seconds left in the half and began frantically grabbing her knee and writhing in pain.
After a few minutes on the court and a visit from Bellwood's trainer, Hollen stood up and walked off the court on her own. Hollen returned to start the second half and played the rest of the game without incident.
"I thought I heard my knee pop, and I totally freaked out," Hollen said. "I thought it was my ACL. My whole career flashed before my eyes, but my trainer calmed me down and told me it was just my hamstring, and it was such a relief that everything was OK."
In a game without much suspense, the injury had Swaney worried.
"My life passed before my eyes," Swaney said. "We can't afford to lose Ana. It looks like she just tweaked her hamstring a little bit, so it's nice we don't play for a week."
With Hollen back on the court, Bellwood-Antis picked up right where it left off. Karson Swogger, who led all scorers with 19 points, capped off a 17-4 third quarter for the Lady Blue Devils with a 3-pointer to give B-A a 46-14 lead going into the final quarter.
"They are very physical," Juniata coach Meghan Geedy said. "It was to the point where we were getting knocked off the ball. We found it very hard to even start our offense, and we were starting it too far away from the basket. We wanted to attack the basket, but we couldn't get past their pressure."
Victoria Varner, who scored her 1,000th point on a jump shot in the first quarter, and Joelle Winey led the Lady Indians with five points each.
The Lady Blue Devils improved to 24-2 and haven't lost since losing both games in their season-opening tournament.
"This is the best feeling in the world," Bailey Swogger, Bellwood's lone senior, said. "We know that we should have probably won last year and that we didn't play our best. To come out here and win this bad, it's awesome."
Bellwood-Antis and Juniata will both play on Friday in the PIAA playoffs.
The Lady Blue Devils will take on McGuffey at a District 6 site while Juniata will play Bishop Canevin.
"I think we have as good of a shot as anyone," Hollen said. "I think we're as good as anyone else. We're going to go out and kick some butt and see what happens."
JUNIATA (17): Ja. Swartz 0 1-2 1, Varner 1 3-6 5, Zendt 1 0-0 2, Burns 0 3-8 3, Winey 1 3-5 5, Duck 0 0-2 0, Parson 0 0-0 0, Pray 0 0-0 0, Ju. Swartz 0 0-0 0, Myers 0 0-0 0, Clark 0 1-2 1, Ruble 0 0-0 0. Totals - 3 11-25 17.
BELLWOOD-ANTIS (59): Hollen 5 0-1 10, B. Swogger 4 1-4 9, K. Swogger 8 0-0 19, Leamer 4 1-2 11, Damiano 1 2-2 4, Carles 2 0-0 4, Lynn 0 0-0 0, Showalter 0 0-0 0, Crider 0 0-0 0, Leidig 1 0-0 2, Claar 0 0-0 0, Stevens 0 0-0 0, Whaley 0 0-0 0. Totals - 25 4-9 59.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Juniata 9 1 4 3 - 17
Bellwood-Antis 16 13 17 13 - 59
3-pointers: Juniata: none. Bellwood-Antis 5 (K. Swogger 3, Leamer 2)
Records: Juniata (21-3); Bellwood-Antis (24-2).
Officials: Gary Zimmerman, Todd Parker, Clark Adelman