URICHSVILLE - Bellaire's Division III sectional game looked very similar to most of its games over the course of the final month of the season.
The Big Reds spot their opponent a comfortable lead, scratch and claw back as best they can, but simply run out of time and find the hole to be too deep.
That just about summarized Wednesday's game at Claymont against Sandy Valley.
BELLAIRE’S Nathan Steele goes up for a shot during the first quarter of Wednesday’s Division III sectional game at Claymont High School. The Big Reds lost, 67-60. Additional images may be found at cu.timesleaderonline.com
The Big Reds found themselves down by as many as 18 in the early moments of the third quarter and got as close as seven, with the ball, but couldn't get over the hump.
Thus, the Cardinals (8-15) earned a return trip on Saturday to take on top-seeded Union Local at 1 p.m. after a 67-60 victory against the Big Reds.
"We dig a hole, then we come back because our guys play with a lot of heart and effort, but like I've said before, you don't get medals for effort," said Big Reds' head coach J.R. Battista, who saw his club finish 8-15. "We didn't make enough plays and that's what the game came down to."
The Big Reds found themselves down by nine in the latter stages of the first half, but the Cardinals scored the final five of the half and then the first four in the second half for the game's largest cushion.
"No one is good enough to think they can come back from those kinds of deficits," Battista said. "Sooner or later, you're just going to fall off that ledge. I just told the guys, who are coming back, that we got better from last year to this year and we have to continue to get better for next year."
The Big Reds got within seven on four separate occasions in the fourth quarter, but each time Sandy Valley had an answer.
"We had the ball and had looks from in close when we got within seven," Battista lamented. "We missed quite a few (good) shots and we missed quite a few foul shots. To Sandy Valley's credit ... they didn't. They made shots and that's why they get to play Union Local on Saturday and we're packing up the uniforms."
The Big Reds, who have struggled much of the season on the defensive end of the floor, allowed Chad Neisel to enjoy a career-high night. He scored 26 points. He was complemented by Nate Sheplic's 21 tallies.
Bellaire, meanwhile, was led by sophomore Michael Neil's 18. Seniors Kenny Hess and Sterling Wright netted 15 and 14, respectively.
"Honestly, if you look at (our season) realistically, we made huge strides," Battista said. "When you get beat by a team that's basically even with you, and you just didn't play well, it's tough. Sandy Valley had a lot to do with us not playing well because they were more physical than we were."
SANDY VALLEY (67) - Sheplic 5, 10-15 21; Kail 0, 0-0 0; Lancaster 0, 0-0 0; Sommer 1, 1-6 3; Offenberger 2, 0-0 5; Brown 1, 2-2 4; C. Neisel 11, 4-7 26; A. Neisel 1, 0-0 2; Finn 2, 2-4 6; Totals: 23, 19-34 67. BELLAIRE (60) - Neil 7, 3-4 18; Steele 3, 1-2 7; Ramsay 2, 0-0 4; Hess 6, 3-4 15; Callarik 0, 0-0 0; Wright 6, 2-6 14; Westlake 0, 2-2 2; Kimbro 0, 0-0 0; Back 0, 0-0 0; Totals: 24, 9-18 60.
3-point goals: SV - Shelpic, Offenberger. B - Neil.
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