Bellaire rallies past Bridgeport for second win

The turnover bug has developed a taste for Bellaire girls this season.

Big Reds appeared to be on the menu again Thursday at Bridgeport as the Lady Reds (2-7) coughed up the ball seven times in falling behind 14-11 after one.

Some time prior to the start of the second quarter, Bellaire coach Marci Bonar must have inoculated her players as the turnover bug sought sweeter pastures.

Good decisions with the ball led to points, points led to a lead and a lead led to Bellaire’s second win of the season, a 56-46 win against the homestanding Bulldogs inside John J. Havlicek Gymnasium.

“That was a complete team effort,” Bonar said. “We had scoring all around, we took care of the ball and we played good defense and those are things we normally have trouble with.”

Bellaire rotated varying combinations of six girls throughout the game. Three finished in double figures while all scored at least six points.

The Big Reds’ defenders also started pressuring the ball, forcing Bridgeport into numerous mistakes. Each team finished with nearly 20 turnovers. But nearly half of Bellaire’s came during the first quarter. Bridgeport, meanwhile, was forced to battle through an increasing amount of miscues with the ball.

The ‘Dogs also had to contend with well-thought out defensive game plan aimed at keeping Bridgeport from driving and attacking the basket.

Sitting in their zone, the Big Reds swarmed Nicole Smolenak and Tiffany Heckathorn whenever they attempted to drive and dish. The paint became a no-fly zone and, coupled with Bridgeport’s inability to get dialed in from the perimeter, points were tough to come by.

“They were very well prepared and they did everything better tonight,” Bridgeport coach Rob Zitzelsberger said. “They outhustled us and they outrebounded us and we are a bigger team.”

Smolenak led Bridgeport with 21 points, but she had only eight after the intermission. The next highest scorer was Keri Renzler with nine off the bench.

“We played zone and tried to clog the middle and our guards and posts both did a nice job defensively,” Bonar said.

Teamed on the low block, Myleah Green and Mackenzie Conroy controlled the boards and the paint, keeping the ball out of the hands of Bridgeport’s post players. The two combined for 17 rebounds, with Green snaring 11 to go with her team-high 12 points.

Conroy backed her with 11 while Katie Fry also dropped in 11 points.

A big spark came during the second quarter when Kierstyn Kidder came off the bench, scored a quick four points and forced a couple turnovers. Her play held Bellaire take a 26-24 lead at the half.

Trailing by five entering the last quarter, Zitzelsberger’s team went ice cold at the free throw line, an aspect the coach is still trying to understand.

In 10 trips to the stripe in the final 8 minutes, Bridgeport (5-4) managed to hit only three free throws. Bellaire, meanwhile, was slightly better at 6 of 11.

“I’m not sure what it is with the free throws, but we missed, what seven down the stretch?” Zitzelsberger said.

Kidder and Casey Garloch evenly divided 16 points for Bellaire with Cari Crozier chipping in six to round out the scoring.

Bellaire scored eight unanswered points to close out the fourth quarter in capturing the reserve contest via a 22-15 tally.

BELLAIRE (56) – Crozier 2-6 1-2 6; Conroy 3-6 3-6 11; Green 5-10 2-4 12; Garloch 4-8 0-0 8; Fry 4-14 2-3 11; Kidder 3-5 2-2 8; Ryan 0-0 0-0 0; Totals: 21-49 10-17. BRIDGEPORT (46) – Massey 0-6 0-0 0; Smolenak 7-14 6-8 21; Benda 1-4 0-0 2; Higgenbotham 4-6 0-0 8; Heckathorn 2-15 0-6 6; Renzler 3-7 3-4 9; Baker 0-0 0-0 0; Totals: 17-46 9-18.

Three-point Goals: Bellaire 4 (Crozier, Conroy 2, Fry). Bridgeport 5 (Smolenak 3, Heckathorn 2).

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