BELLAIRE - J.R. Battista has said multiple times that the pizza tastes better after a victory.
He'll not only be enjoying the pizza, but he'll also be celebrating a much happier new year after his Bellaire Big Reds posted an 85-72 victory Monday night against invading Barnesville for their third straight win to cap the 2013 portion of their slate.
"When you drop 20 (games) in one year ... you'll take any win you can get," Battista said. "They're all good. When you're making some shots, everyone looks a lot smarter."
The Big Reds were knocking down shots against a Barnesville zone that yielded the winners eight bonus goals, which came as somewhat of a surprise to Shamrocks' head coach Chris Pack.
"Bellaire's a little better than expected," Pack said. "They can knock down some shots. Even when you're in their face, they can knock down some shots. I am not much for moral victories about being in the game with someone, on their home floor, when they're shooting (the ball) well, but we were there. I told the kids if you take four minutes out of this game, it's anyone's game."
The Big Reds owned a 44-36 lead at the intermission despite watching leading scorers Michael Neal and Nathan Steele spend most of the first half on the bench with foul trouble.
"We foul too much," Battista said. "We were able to hold it together with (Neal and Steele) in foul trouble in the first half. I thought we played pretty well in the third quarter."
It was in that third quarter when the Big Reds really blew the game open. After the Shamrocks cut the Reds' lead to six on a bucket from Eric Nicholson to open the third, Bellaire proceeded to score 12 of the next 14, which caused Pack to burn two time outs.
Steele and Neal ignited the spurt with back-to-back triples before senior Kenny Hess got into the act. Junior post Tyler Ramsay also had a pair of buckets during the run in what was arguably the best game of his career.
"It's a game of skill and if you're able to put a few in the basket, put some points on the board and everything becomes a lot easier," Battista said.
The Big Reds carried a 66-48 upperhand into the final chapter. Barnesville was never able to get any closer than 12.
"When we kept our heads up and broke them down, I thought we scored (the ball) well," Pack said. "The 72 points is a good number for us. We're getting more contributions from guys off the bench, our chemistry is getting better and our rotations are getting there. I think we're headed in the right direction. We were just two or three minutes away from making this a barn burner."
The balanced Big Reds, who got a nary point off their bench, were led by Ramsay. He banged his on the interior to 25 points and eight rebounds. Hess added 20, while Neal and Steele each had 18. Ryan Callarik had only four points, but he managed to grab 11 rebounds.
Barnesville was led by Isaac McGee's 20. Zach Houston and Nicholson went for 18 and 16, respectively. David Stewart added 10.
The Big Reds grabbed 31 rebounds which was eight more than the Shamrocks. Barnesville was guilty of 20 turnovers, which was six more than the winners.
Both teams are back in action Friday in altered starting times. Bellaire hosts Edison with the jayvee game slated for a 4 p.m. tip. The Shamrocks visit Shadyside with the reserve game set to begin at 4:45 p.m.
Bellaire made it a clean sweep with a 64-51 victory in the reserve tilt.
BARNESVILLE (72) - Nicholson 4, 7-9 16; Wells 0, 0-0 0; Hannahs 0, 1-2 1; Decker 0, 0-0 0; Clark 2, 3-4 7; Stewart 5, 0-0 10; McGee 8, 1-4 20; Houston 8, 2-4 18; Totals: 27, 14-23 72. BELLAIRE (85) - Neal 6, 2-2 18; Steele 5, 4-4 18; Callarik 2, 0-0 4; Ramsay 10, 5-9 25; Ke. Hess 8, 4-5 20; Westlake 0, 0-0 0; Back 0, 0-0 0; Kimbro 0, 0-0 0; Kovalyk 0, 0-0 0; Pickens 0, 0-0 0; Ky. Hess 0, 0-0 0; Hall 0, 0-0 0; Wiggins 0, 0-0 0; Totals: 31, 15-20 85.
3-point goals: Ba - Nicholson, McGee (3). Be - Neal (4), Steele (4).