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B-A turns it up a notch in 2nd half in girls basketball

Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski Bellwood-Antis' Aly Partner gets a shot up between Portage's Cami Burkett (left) and Ashlyn Hudak.

By John Hartsock

jhartsock@altoonamirror.com

PORTAGE — Bellwood-Antis pulled things together in the second half of its non-conference girls basketball showdown with Portage Monday night at Portage Area High School’s Len Chappell Gymmasium, and stout defense was the key for the Lady Blue Devils.

Trailing, 29-23 at halftime, Bellwood allowed a total of just 14 points in the entire second half, while the Lady Devils’ offense closed the game on a 16-3 run that sparked Bellwood’s 55-43 victory.

“We were down by six points at halftime, and we gave up 14 points in the second half,” said Bellwood coach Jim Swaney after watching his team improve to 18-4. “Defensively, it was a great effort on our part.

“In the second half, we did a much better job of stopping their offensive penetration and getting out on their 3-point shooters,” Swaney added.

Bellwood enjoyed balanced scoring, with senior forward Jaidyn McCracken scoring 15 points and grabbing 16 rebounds, junior guard Chelsea McCaulsky adding 14 points, and junior forward Lydia Worthing chipping in 13 points and eight rebounds in limited playing time.

“We started off slow in the first half, and we knew that we had to pick it up in the second half,” McCracken said. “We came out with guns blazing, and we did not hold off.

“In the second half, we got the defensive rebounds, and offensively, we were able to finish shots close to the glass,” McCracken added. “We weren’t able to do that in the first half.”

Two free throws by sophomore Cami Burkett, who led Portage with 15 points, gave the Lady Mustangs (18-4) their last lead of the night, 40-39, with just under five minutes left in the game.

Worthing’s runner with 4:31 left put Bellwood ahead to stay, 41-40, and junior Aly Partner drained a 3-pointer from the left wing to give B-A a 44-40 edge with 3:21 showing.

After Burkett made two free throws with 2:55 left to pull Portage to within 44-42, McCaulsky connected on a big 3-pointer from the upper right side to give Bellwood a 47-42 edge.

“I think that we started to hit our shots and move the ball more later in the game,” McCaulsky said.

McCracken followed McCaulsky’s trey with a 3-pointer of her own from the left corner for a 50-42 Bellwood lead with 2:07 left.

McCracken hit five of six free throws in the final 1:22 as Bellwood salted away the victory.

Bellwood raced out to a 17-10 lead after one quarter, but Portage — led by junior Ari Wozniak’s two 3-pointers — ruled the second quarter, 19-6, to take the 29-23 halftime lead.

With McCracken scoring eight points on three field goals and two free throws, Bellwood bounced back to carry the third quarter, 14-7 to take a 37-36 lead entering the fourth period.

“They came out fast in the first quarter,” Portage coach Lance Hudak said of Bellwood. “We righted the ship and came back in the second quarter.

“We wanted to extend the lead in the third quarter, but they got six straight points and tied the game up, and our offense became very vanilla in the second half,” added Hudak, whose team is playing without three of its top players after all three had sustained season-ending knee injuries.

“We didn’t play to our skills and attack the hoop in the second half, and we weren’t good at all from the foul line,” added Hudak, whose team converted just 13 of 26 free throws.

With conference playoff games set for both teams later this week, and the District 6 playoffs beginning next week, the stakes will get higher.

Portage hosts Shanksville-Stonycreek in a WestPAC Conference semifinal game Wednesday night, while Bellwood will play a yet undecided opponent – either Tussey Mountain or Southern Huntingdon – in the Inter-County Conference semifinal round Friday at Claysburg-Kimmel High School.

The WestPAC championship game is set for Friday night at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, while the ICC championship game is Saturday night at Claysburg-Kimmel.

Bellwood’s win on a tough Portage team’s home floor Monday provided a good tune-up for the Lady Blue Devils.

“I think that we really needed to get this win on the road, because we’ve really struggled with that,” McCaulsky said. “This really helps us going into the conference and district playoffs.”

BELLWOOD-ANTIS (55): McCracken 5 3-4 15, McCaulsky 3 5-6 14, Worthing 6 1-4 13, Partner 1 1-2 4, Hammond 2 1-2 7, Clapper 1 0-0 2, Norton 0 0-0 0. Totals – 18 11-18 55.

PORTAGE (43): Sossong 1 2-2 4, Swank 2 1-5 6, Wozniak 2 2-2 8, Chobany 1 1-43, Noll 0 0-0 0, A. Hudak 0 0-0 0, C. Burkett 4 7-11 15, Bednarski 3 0-2 7. Totals – 13 13-26 43.

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Bellwood-Antis 17 6 14 16–55

Portage 10 19 7 7–43

3-point goals: Bellwood-Antis (8): McCaulsky 3, McCracken 2, Hammond 2, Partner. Portage 4 (Wozniak 2, Swank, Bednarski).

Records: Bellwood-Antis (18-4); Portage (18-4).

Officials: Young, Solomon, Redfoot.

JV: No game.

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