Beallsville's 'road warriors' (aka the boys' basketball team) returned home Friday night for only their second home game - and first since Dec. 20 - only to find a fight on their hands.
The Blue Devils had played eight road games and were looking to record a regular-season sweep of rival Bridgeport, which they had soundly defeated (66-39) in the season-opener.
"When I saw them (Bridgeport) walk into the gymnasium tonight, I knew they were going to punch us in the face," veteran Beallsville head coach Scooter Tolzda said following a hard-fought, 59-52, triumph over the game Bulldogs (3-7).
"I tried to tell my guys before the game that we were going to be in for a fight," he continued. "(Bridgeport head coach) Donnie (Cash) and his staff would have their team ready, and they did."
Behind a well-balanced attack, Beallsville slowly, but surely, pulled away from the visitors. The Blue Devils held a 13-10 edge after one period, led 31-24 at the break, and 41-30 at the end of three periods.
The advantage eventually ballooned to a game-high 14, 47-33, with 5:36 left to play, but the Bulldogs wouldn't roll over and play dead.
Led by senior Cole Smelley, Bridgeport outscored the hosts 19-9 to pull to within four, 56-52, on a Smelley layup with a minute to play.
However, the Blue Devils salted away the victory with some free throws, but not the way they usually do. The red-hot shooters from the charity stripe misfired on 4 of 7 tries down the stretch, but it was good enough to hold on.
"That's disappointing," Tolzda said of the missed free throws. "We really work hard on our free throw shooting."
Despite the setback, Cash had nothing but praise for his team, which had suffered a really tough loss at Frontier just 48 hours prior.
"I was very, very proud of the effort of our kids tonight," he allowed. "They did everything we asked of them. We were patient at times, slowed it down and got good shots.
"I told the guys that if we come with that intensity and that work ethic and attitude, we'll win some games before the season is over. This is a really tough place to play, but give credit to Beallsville. They shot the ball well and made the plays when they had to."
With Bridgeport creeping closer and closer, Beallsville's Grahamm Dauch came up with a huge conventional three-point play that bumped a 5-point margin to eight. Dauch shared team honors with Sam Jackson at 16.
"We think Grahamm can score down low," Tolzda said. "He's coming along after a fine football season."
Junior Teryn Jarrett added 15 points for the winners. Jackson would conclude his fine floor game with five assists and a like number of thefts.
The taller Blue Devils held a commanding 36-28 advantage off the glass as Dauch and Josh Baldridge evenly divided a dozen. Jarrett snared five.
Smelley led Bridgeport with nine boards and five steals. Dallas Fields chipped in 14 markers and five caroms, while Josh Perrelli tallied eight, all in the second quarter to keep the visitors close.
The Bulldogs return home Tuesday to host River, while Beallsville awaits a good Weirton Madonna squad the same night.
"Tuesday is going to be a really big game for us," Tolzda said of the upcoming home contest against Weirton Madonna. "We're playing the defending (W.Va.) state champs, the defending OVAC champs and the top-rated Class A team in the state (of W.Va.). If we can't get excited about that ... . But that's what we want to do. We want to play good teams like that. I think it's going to a great atmosphere."
Beallsville led in turnovers, 22-18.
The Bulldogs avoided a clean sweep as they staved off a Blue Devils' rally for a 36-31 victory in the JV preliminary.
BRIDGEPORT (52) - Smelley 10 1-4 21; Fields 7 0-0 14; Dyson 0 0-0 0; Frey 2 2-2 7; Perrelli 4 0-0 8; Roth 0 0-0 0; Kreiter 0 0-0 0; McGrath 1 0-0 2; Williams 0 0-0 0; Totals: 24-58 3-6. BEALLSVILLE (59) - Spence 3 0-0 7; Jackson 7 0-1 16; Jarrett 6 1-2 15; Dauch 4 8-9 16; Burke 0 2-4 2; Baldridge 0 1-2 1; Bates 1 0-0 2; Totals: 21-42 12-18.
Three-Point Goals: Bridgeport 1 (Frey); Beallsville 5 (Jackson 2, Jarrett 2, Spence)
North can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org