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Bellwood earns third seed

Bellwood-Antis finds itself in the same position it was in two years and two state titles ago when its current run of dominance began.

The Lady Blue Devils held on late in the game after a strong start to top Bishop McCort, 62-59, in the District 6 Class 2A consolation game Thursday night at the Altoona Area High School Fieldhouse.

The win makes Bellwood the third-place team out of the district and sets it up to face Laurel, the WPIAL runner-up, in the first round of the PIAA tournament next Friday.

The Lady Devils were disappointed to not be able to capture the District 6 title, but coach Jim Swaney said that he told his players that they still have a lot to play for, and his team responded.

“My last words to them were on Tuesday as we came into practice, ‘As far as I know, they haven’t handed out that big chocolate bar, yet,'” Swaney said. “So until that’s handed out, we’re still the defending state champions.'”

The balance on offense was keyed by double-double performances by seniors Alli Campbell and Sakeria Haralson.

Both had strong nights on the boards with 13 rebounds. Campbell tied for a game-high 18 points and Haralson had 12 points, while Emilie Leidig drained six 3-pointers for 18 points.

“I think we did better than we usually do,” Haralson said of the turn around after the loss to Bishop Guilfoyle in the semifinals. “Coming back from Monday, I think we played really good and we collected ourselves.”

“We knew that they were going to pressure us, and we knew that they were coming out in a triangle-two (defense),” Leidig said. “So we came out strong and hit our shots when we had open gaps.”

Bellwood opened up the game with a 25-11 lead after one quarter, but the Lady Crushers went on a huge run in the second period, thanks to 10 points from McCort leading scorer Mikayla Martin (24 points) and back-to-back 3-pointers from Isabella Hunt to put them out ahead, 34-32, at halftime.

“We had a huge lead at the beginning and we let them back in it,” Campbell said. “But we kept our heads and kept our confidence and we trusted ourselves and our teammates. We battled the whole game and pulled out the win, and that’s all that matters.”

A lot of those points in the second quarter came on break-away runs down the floor, something Swaney said he was disappointed about afterward.

“The only thing I’m disappointed with tonight was I didn’t think we got back all the time,” he said. “And I thought that’s when we gave them some points, especially when they had that run there in the second quarter.

“Give good teams credit, they’re going to make a run back, and they did,” Swaney said of McCort. “And also give good teams credit that can give a lead up like that and still step out in the third quarter and regain some dominance of the game. I thought we did that, too.”

McCort coach John Hahn said that the Crushers had trouble keeping track of Leidig and holding her in check.

“We lost Emilie Leidig too many times,” Hahn said. “We know Alli is going to get hers, but Emilie is the girl we needed to stop. I told the girls we needed to keep her down around 10 or 12 points, and she had 18, all 3-pointers. We can’t lose her.”

Hahn also said his team fell short of what he felt they needed on the scoreboard in order to hang with Bellwood.

“Well, we didn’t make foul shots at the end, which hurt us,” Hahn said. “I told the girls before it was going to be a game of runs, and we’ve got to score 65 points. I figured if we got 65, we would be right there.

“And we’ve had bad starts throughout the year and again, tonight, another bad start. But after we got into the flow of things, the girls knew we could play with them.”

Swaney praised his team’s performance against a hot Bishop McCort team that throws lots of different looks at its opponents.

In particular, as the Bellwood lead slimmed in the fourth quarter, McCort moved to a full-court press and double-teams on Campbell and Leidig in the half-court.

“We talked about how he was probably going to play some trick defenses because he always does, but except for that, we didn’t talk much about their offense,” Swaney said. “We just wanted to get back to defending the basketball the proper way. Keep it in front of you and see if we can deny cutters.”

Swaney isn’t sure if being the three seed out of districts gives Bellwood an advantage or not when the PIAA tournament gets under way. All he knew is his team wanted to come out and compete.

“These games are funny,” Swaney said. “I don’t know if there is any advantage to being the 6-3 or 6-4, but it’s a game and you want to win. You have competitors.

“To try to put the disappointment of the other night aside in just two days is big. Our kids feel like they’ve been on a three-year mission on some of this stuff, and they feel like they fell very short in not playing (for the District 6 title) tonight. So from our standpoint we wanted to try and make up for it tonight.”

The Lady Devils won in Hershey as a district third seed two years ago, and it wouldn’t surprise Swaney or anybody if the Lady Devils and the Crushers face off again for a spot in the state final.

“Double-A is loaded in District 6,” Swaney said. “If you make it out in District 6, you’re a good, quality basketball team. It wouldn’t shock anybody if we played Bishop McCort in the western final. I’m not saying that’ll happen, but I don’t think it will shock anybody. I think both programs are that good.

“I said to John after the game I’d love to see him again two weeks from now. It’d be fun, it’d be a lot of fun.”

BISHOP MCCORT (59): Shriver 4 0-0 9, M. Martin 10 0-0 24, L. Martin 4 0-2 9, Selfridge 0 0-0 0, Hunt 6 1-4 15, Bair 0 0-0 0, Damon 0 2-2 2, Stephens 0 0-0 0. Totals — 24 3-8 59.

BELLWOOD-ANTIS (62): Campbell 6 5-6 18, Leidig 6 0-0 18, Haralson 6 0-0 12, Shuke 4 2-4 11, Decker 1 0-0 3, McCaulsky 0 0-0 0, McCracken 0 0-0 0. Totals — 23 7-14 62.

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Bishop McCort 11 23 7 18 — 59

Bellwood-Antis 25 7 20 10 — 62

3-point goals: Bishop McCort 8 (Shriver, M. Martin 4, L. Martin, Hunt 2); Bellwood-Antis 9 (Campbell, Leidig 6, Jd. Shuke, Decker).

Records: Bishop McCort (14-11); Bellwood-Antis (24-2).

Officials: Chuck Glasser, Todd Parker, Anthony Perzovcie.

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