Bellaire girls break through

It wasn’t a masterpiece by any mention of the word, but after a season-and-a-game of winless basketball, Bellaire finally provided second-year head coach Marci Bonar with her first victory at her alma mater.

And the Lady Big Reds did so in exciting fashion, claiming a hard-fought, 57-47, overtime triumph over host Bridgeport Monday night inside the John J. Havlicek Gymnasium.

“It was ugly, but as they say, a win is a win, right?” Bonar beamed. “I told the girls I wasn’t going to yell at them about how bad they played in the first half because it was horrendous, but they played so good at the end.

“We were down by four with less than a minute to go, but the girls didn’t hang their heads and give up. They got steals when they needed to and I can’t say how much character they showed late in the game.”

Trailing 47-43 with less than 20 seconds remaining to play, Bellaire used an inside basket by freshman Cari Crozier to cut the margin to 47-45.

Following a pair of missed free throws by the Lady Bulldogs with 7.5 ticks left in regulation, Bellaire pushed the ball upcourt and Katie Fry sliced her way down the lane and lofted a shot that kissed off the glass and tickled the twine just ahead of the final buzzer, sending the contest to the 4-minute extra session.

“I knew when Katie made that shot that the game was ours,” Bonar said. “The momentum had changed and I knew that Katie had gotten her confidence back.”

Fry did most of the damage in the overtime as she tallied eight of her team-high 19 points, including a 6-of-8 effort from the charity stripe, as Bellaire outscored Bridgeport 10-0.

“I knew she would take over,” Bonar said of her junior point guard.

Bellaire held a 9-point lead with 2:37 left in the third quarter, but Bridgeport battled back behind the play of Tiffany Heckathorn. The sophomore netted all five of her points before the quarter ended. Brittany Higgenbotham added a basket as the Lady ‘Dawgs had pulled to within a bucket, 37-35.

The back-and-forth contest was deadlocked three times in the final 8-minute stanza, the last being at 43 with 2:22 when Jenae Vavrock hit a baseline basket.

After a Bellaire turnover, Bridgeport freshman Nicole Smolenak knocked down both ends of a bonus situation to put the hosts ahead, 45-43. Higgenbotham’s inside basket made it 47-43 with 1:24 on the clock.

However, two critical turnovers and some poor free throw shooting led to Bridgeport’s late demise.

“I’m real proud of our girls,” first-year Bridgeport head coach Rob Zitzelsberger said. “Bellaire is vastly improved and I would like to congratulate coach Bonar.

“We had the game won and we let it slip away,” he continued. “We lost this game at the foul line. I’m not sure what we shot, but it killed us.

“We practice foul shots every day,” he added. “I told the girls there are three keys to us winning – make our foul shots, get the rebounds and take care of the basketball. We didn’t do any of those.”

For the game, the Lady Bulldogs were 16-of-27 from the foul line, got outrebounded 32-24 and turned the ball over 30 times, nine more than the Big Reds.

Smolenak led all scorers with 23 points. Higgenbotham added 10 and Vavrock nine. Higgenbotham also pulled down a dozen rebounds.

In addition to Fry’s 19 markers, Bellaire received 13 points from Corie Trigg, nine from Casey Garloch – who fouled out with 7.5 seconds left in the third quarter – and eight from Crozier off the bench.

Bellaire also won the JV game, 29-5.

Varsity scoring:

BELLAIRE (57) – Fry 6 6-8 19; Trigg 5 0-1 13; Garloch 4 0-0 9; Williams 1 0-0 2; Green 1 2-6 4; Schreiner 0 0-0 0; Crozier 3 2-4 8; Conroy 0 2-2 2; Totals: 20 12-21. BRIDGEPORT (47) – Heckathorn 1 3-5 5; Vavrock 3 3-7 9; Smolenak 6 10-11 23; Strauss 0 0-0 0; Higgenbotham 5 0-2 10; Benda 0 0-2 0; Flowers 0 0-0 0; Totals: 15 16-27.

Three-Point Goals: Bellaire 5 (Fry, Trigg 3, Garloch); Bridgeport 1 (Smolenak)

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