A pair of streaking girls' basketball teams squared off inside the 'House of Champions' Thursday night.
When the dust had settled and the final buzzer had sounded, St. Clairsville had won its third straight, 58-49, but not without a late challenge from host Bellaire.
The Red Devils (3-2) held a 12-point lead, 44-32, with 7:16 left in the fourth quarter, only to watch the Big Reds (1-5) battle back and deadlock the game on Cari Crozier's runner in the lane that made it 49-all at the 1:34 mark.
BELLAIRE’S CARI Crozier (10) dribbles the ball upcourt against the defense of St. Clairsville’s Anna Difilippo during action Thursday night inside the ‘House of Champions’ on Guernsey Street. The Red Devils prevailed, 58-49.
However, St. Clairsville would reel off the final nine points, sparked by a pair of fastbreak layups by Carlee Gillespie, to pull away for good.
"These girls just have a no-lose attitude," St. Clairsville head coach Alicia Freeman revealed.
"We struggled for two years, honestly, but these girls are ready to win. They work hard."
On the other hand, Bellaire head coach Marci Bonar was not pleased with her team's effort, especially in the first half, and wouldn't give it credit for the late-game rally.
"We didn't play in the first half at all," she said as the Big Reds dropped their fifth straight after a season-opening victory at Buckeye Local. "We just didn't come to play. In the second half we came out and played our butts off, but it was too late.
"When you dig yourself a hole that big, it's kind of hard to come back. Yes, we did, but that just goes to show it shouldn't have been that big of a hole in the first place.
"I'm not really happy because there have been games that we have lost and I thought we did our best, but tonight I don't feel that we gave it our best."
St. Clairsville grabbed a 14-9 lead after the first quarter behind six points by Alexis St. Clair.
The Red Devils added to the margin at the half, 26-18, as Alicia Avila knocked had five counters.
Bellaire pulled to within six, 38-32, late in the third quarter, but the visitors scored the final three points for a 9-point bulge. With 2.6 ticks remaining, Brigee Mick cashed in the front end of a two-shot foul, but missed the second. However, St. Clair snagged the offensive rebound and put it back in the hoop before the buzzer went off.
The Big Reds started their comeback with a 7-0 run that made it 44-41 as Myleah Green, who didn't play in the first half due to undisclosed disciplinary reasons, had four points and Crozier three.
St. Clairsville took a 49-43 lead, but layups by Kierstyn Kidder and Nina Crook made it a two-point contest with 2:43 on the clock.
Following a Red Devils' timeout, they sandwiched a pair of turnovers around a missed shot by Bellaire, before Bonar called timeout. The strategy worked as Crozier pulled the hosts even, but it was all St. Clairsville after that.
"Give Bellaire credit, they kind of came back on us and we kind of tightened up a little bit, but we settled the girls down and they showed that they want to win," Freeman advised.
The Buckeye 8 triumph also gave the Red Devils some momentum heading into a tough stretch next week when it plays Buckeye Local on Monday and undefeated Bridgeport and Martins Ferry on back-to-back nights Wednesday and Thursday.
"We have a big week coming up and it started tonight," Freeman admitted.
St. Clair led the Red Devils with 15 points, while Gillespie finished with 13 and Avila 11. St. Clair also pulled down a dozen of her team's 46 rebounds and Avila had seven.
Crozier had a team-high 15 counters for Bellaire. Kidder chipped in 14. Five different Big Reds had half-a-dozen caroms each.
Neither team took especially good care of the basketball, combining for 47 turnovers. St. Clairsville had one more at 24-23.
Bellaire hosts Barnesville Monday.
St. Clairsville completed a sweep with a double overtime win in the JV contest.
ST. CLAIRSVILLE (58) - Mick 1 3-4 5; Gillespie 6 1-2 13; St. Clair 5 5-6 15; Avila 5 0-0 11; Figura 3 2-4 8; Moulder 1 0-1 2; Difillipo 1 0-3 2; Skukan 0 2-2 2; Totals: 22-62 13-22. BELLAIRE (49) - Kidder 6 1-5 14; Messenger 0 2-2 2; Crozier 7 1-3 15; Ryan 3 0-0 6; Crook 1 0-1 2; Gillespie 1 0-0 2; Green 3 2-2 8; Totals: 21-59 6-12.
Three-Point Goals: St. Clairsville 1 (Avila); Bellaire 1 (Kidder)
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