Defensive strategy helps B-A girls
GREENSBURG — Jam the lane.
The phrase was repeated by Bellwood-Antis coach Jim Swaney more than a dozen times Thursday night during the Lady Blue Devils’ PIAA Class 2A second-round game against Chartiers-Houston at Hempfield Area High School.
The reason was a big one. To be specific, it was about a 6-foot-1 issue.
Lady Bucs star Alexa Williamson got her points, but Bellwood’s game plan paid off, and the Lady Devils got the more important accolade — an 80-66 victory.
“We weren’t real sure that they were consistent shooters from the outside,” Swaney said. “We did know that (Williamson) was the real deal. So we wanted to give as much help on her as we could. Our tallest player is 5-foot 10, and she’s a freshman guard, so there was no way we could just match up with her.”
Williamson finished with 35 points and 16 rebounds, but Bellwood-Antis used a 13-2 run early in the first quarter to take control of a game it led from that point on.
“We wanted to help our bigs out with (Williamson),” Bellwood freshman guard Alli Campbell said. “She’s a really good player, so we stayed in the lane to help out with her.”
During that run, Lady Bucs point guard Jala Walker picked up her third foul just 3:49 into the game.
“It was certainly a big turning point,” Swaney said. “It allowed us to increase our pressure, but it was something we talked about the past three or four days. We wanted to put the heat on her and (Williamson).”
Bellwood-Antis forced eight first-quarter turnovers and 26 in the game.
“That was really difficult for us, because (Jala Walker) is our best ball-handler,” Chartiers-Houston coach Laura Montecalvo said. “I’m not one to talk about officials, but that third foul was very questionable.”
The Lady Blue Devils got 32 points from Karson Swogger and 25 from Campbell. The pair combined for seven of B-A’s 10 3-pointers.
“Swogger has the skills and experience,” Montecalvo said. “Alli Campbell is probably the best freshman I’ve ever seen. She definitely didn’t play like a freshman.”
As Bellwood expanded its lead early, Makayla Carles played a big role. The senior guard, who missed last season due to injury, scored all 10 of her points before halftime, and the Lady Devils led by as many as 23.
“We came out with intensity, and we were on fire,” Swogger said. “All those 3s we hit early were huge. We really needed them. I think it took away some of their confidence and added to ours.”
Chartiers-Houston cut the lead to 13 with a 12-2 run just before halftime thanks to a few putbacks by Williamson. The Lady Bucs won the rebounding battle, 47-29.
Chartiers-Houston was unable to continue its momentum after the half, however, as Campbell and Swogger opened the third quarter with layups.
“You have to come out aggressive and set the tone right away,” Swaney said. “We talk about it every day, and I thought our kids did that. We got some great play from our guards, not just Karson and Alli. I thought Tina Hollen, Riley D’Angelo, Emilie Leidig and especially Makayla Carles were big for us tonight.”
Swogger drilled a 3-pointer with 6:21 left to give Bellwood its largest lead of the game at 72-46.
“Whenever (Walker) got into the foul situation, we wanted to increase the pressure,” Swaney said. “We thought we could get some things out of that full-court pressure, and we certainly did.”
The Lady Blue Devils will play District 7’s Our Lady of Sacred Heart in the state quarterfinals. Chartiers-Houston defeated OLSH during the WPIAL playoffs.
“Both of them could pose some problems for us,” Swaney said. “We’ll enjoy the game tonight, but at 6 tomorrow night, we show up for practice and this game is forgotten.”
BELLWOOD-ANTIS (80): Swogger 11 6-6 32, Campbell 10 2-3 25, Carles 4 2-3 10, D’Angelo 1 0-0 3, Damiano 0 0-0 0, Hollen 1 0-0 3, E. Leidig 3 0-0 7, A. Leidig 0 0-0 0, Engle 0 0-0 0. Totals — 30 10-12 80.
CHARTIERS-HOUSTON (66): Simpson 1 3-4 5, K. Walker 1 2-4 4, Vulcano 3 1-2 9, J. Walker 4 4-6 12, Williamson 15 5-8 35, Mazutis 0 1-2 1. Totals — 24 16-26 66.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Bellwood-Antis 26 22 17 15 — 80
Chartiers-Houston 12 21 13 20 — 66
3-pointers: Bellwood-Antis 10 (Swogger 4, Campbell 3, E. Leidig, Hollen, D’Angelo). Chartiers-Houston 2 (Vulcano 2).
Records: Bellwood-Antis (24-4); Chartiers-Houston (24-3).
Officials: Terri Piatak, Dave Mattis, George Figura.