Bellwood on fire in blowout

BELLWOOD — The battle between the defending PIAA Class 2A girls basketball champions and last year’s PIAA Class 1A runner-up did not go as planned Tuesday.

For either team, really.

Bellwood-Antis star junior Alli Campbell produced a triple double with 26 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists and five steals, and the Lady Blue Devils topped Juniata Valley, 79-55.

“No, not at all,” said B-A’s Emilie Leidig when asked if she thought the score would be so lopsided. “I thought it was going to be close all the way like it was last year. I definitely thought it would be closer than this, but it is what it is.”

Leidig’s 18 points and four 3-pointers had a lot to do with that, as did Jaydyn Shuke’s 11 points and three 3-pointers.

“We have been pushing Jaydyn Shuke for two days now, telling her they weren’t going to guard her,” Bellwood-Antis coach Jim Swaney said. “We told her she needed to step up, because she can play. She quit being nervous about things and let it fly. Her chipping in 11 points tonight was huge.”

Shuke’s performance certainly caught Juniata Valley coach Rachelle Hopsicker off guard.

“Mentally, you’re not expecting some of these girls to make the shots they did,” Hopsicker said. “It’s not just them making the shot, it’s recovering from them making the shot. We’re a little young, not all of us, but I think our reaction to it can get better really quick. We can work out some of those things.”

Bellwood-Antis made seven of its 11 3-pointers in the first half and held a 17-point lead at halftime.

“I think so,” said Swaney when asked if his team was unbeatable when they’re hitting shots like they did in the first half Tuesday. “We have the best player in the state. A lot of people start to think about that, and Alli is the best player in the state, but her surrounding cast is pretty good.”

Campbell did some of her best work distributing the ball Tuesday. Several of Leidig’s shots, and a key 3-pointer from Riley D’Angelo, came off penetration from Campbell.

Following each made shot, the avalanche that was the crowd, Bellwood’s shooting and Juniata Valley’s youth crept closer to overcoming the Lady Hornets.

Leidig and Shuke each drilled 3-pointers during a 10-0 run that turned a 9-7 Bellwood lead into a 19-7 lead in less than three minutes.

“Coming into it, I knew we all needed to be pumped up,” Leidig said. “We all play better when we’re hyper. When someone makes a 3-pointer and someone flexes or something like that, it gives all of us energy. Then it just goes from there, and we’re unstoppable.”

Juniata Valley, which got a game-high 35 points from its own star junior Halee Smith, cut the lead to 13 late in the third quarter before the Lady Blue Devils closed the period with 11 straight points.

Bellwood’s Sakeria Haralson had 10 of her 11 rebounds in the second half to limit the Lady Hornets’ chances.

“Sakeria was just an absolute freaking beast,” Swaney said. “Fifteen points, 11 boards, five blocks, dominated the inside.”

The teams will meet again in Alexandria on Jan. 31 and could meet once more in the District 6 Class 2A playoffs now that Juniata Valley has moved up in classification.

“Part of the process is having these games,” Hopsicker said. “If we won every game, we wouldn’t learn as much. We probably will learn a little more from this game than they will. Since we’re so young, we need these experiences to learn how to persevere when you fall into a hole.”

The Lady Hornets, who also got eight points and 10 rebounds from Avery Taylor, already have impressive victories over Forest Hills, Huntingdon and Bishop Guilfoyle despite losing three starters from last year’s state finalist team.

“This game is definitely going to help us,” Smith said. “Bellwood definitely played strong, and we have to play stronger. We’re going to have to look at film and practice even harder than we have been in the beginning of the season.”

Though the game certainly wasn’t an instant classic, the turnout was impressive. Regular seating was full by halftime of the junior varsity game and fans were forced to sit on the stairs in the bleachers while others stood for the entire game.

“One of the best crowds we’ve ever had,” Campbell said. “It was loud, energetic and it was really fun to play in front of a huge crowd like that.”

Despite coming out on the wrong side of the score, Hopsicker said she was proud of what both programs have achieved.

“It’s like a playoff atmosphere every time we play,” Hopsicker said. “People from all over look forward to this, and it’s good for girls basketball. People are looking forward to these games, and you haven’t seen that for a long time.”

JUNIATA VALLEY (55): Reed 0 0-0 0, O. Smith 0 0-0 0, Jefferis 1 0-0 2, A. Taylor 3 0-0 8, H. Taylor 2 3-4 8, H. Smith 14 4-4 35, Musser 1 0-0 2. Totals — 21 7-8 55

BELLWOOD-ANTIS (79): D’Angelo 2 1-2 7, Leidig 7 0-0 18, Campbell 8 8-12 26, Haralson 7 1-2 15, Shuke 3 2-2 11, Musselman 0 0-0 0, Decker 1 0-0 2. Totals — 28 12-18 79

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Juniata Valley 14 12 7 22 — 55

Bellwood-Antis 22 21 14 22 — 79

3-point goals: Juniata Valley 6 (A. Taylor 2, H. Taylor, H. Smith 3); Bellwood-Antis 11 (D’Angelo 2, Leidig 4, Campbell 2, Shuke 3).

Officials: Clark Adelman, Jack McDougal, Randy Burket.

Records: Juniata Valley (8-2), Bellwood (9-2).

JV: Bellwood-Antis, 59-27. High scorers–Maelyn Payne, JV, 14; Katie Robison, BA, 16.

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