Bellaire faces challenge, passes with flying colors

• Big Reds check Jets’ Porter to six points

MORRISTOWN — Good teams are always looking for that next big challenge.

Bellaire’s girls’ basketball tam is no different. And Thursday night, the Big Reds faced one in Union Local senior Haley Porter.

The Jets’ senior point guard entered the Buckeye 8 contest averaging nearly 23 points a game, second best in The Times Leader’s coverage area to Buckeye Local’s Emily Holzopfel. And, like the Big Reds did to the Panthers’ stalwart earlier this season, Bellaire was able to rein in its talented opponent.

Porter was held to a season-low six points and Natalie Stoner led three Big Reds scoring in double figures with 18 as Bellaire claimed the Buckeye 8 South championship with a 79-51 triumph inside “The Hangar.”

“I think the girls enjoy it when we present them with a challenge,” Bellaire head coach John Farrier said. “I think (Thursday night) they really wanted to step up to it.

“I think in the first half we kind of sent the message, set the tone, and went from there.”

Bellaire led by as many as 31 in earning their 12th victory of the season in 13 tries.

“The first quarter set the momentum and we just never really could get out from under it,” UL head coach Kelley Hanlon said. “They’re an excellent club. They’re defense is outstanding. We’d gone over it with the girls over and over, but it’s a different thing when you get out there.”

Bellaire jumped out to a 17-3 lead and never looked back. It led 21-10 after one period and surged to a 16-point advantage — 33-17 — early in the second.

Allison Loase’s jumper brought the Jets (6-4) to within eight as the second quarter began, but the Big Reds went on a 10-2 run from there spearheaded by Stoner, who scored six straight points at one juncture, four coming off offensive rebounds.

Michaela Flaherty, who came off the bench to score 15 points, also got into the act, as did Katrina Davis, who finished with 17.

“That’s kind of been our identity this year,” Farrier said. “You never really know who’s going to score for us. All the girls we put out there can score. That’s why we have the record we do.”

Maci Crozier added nine points, as did De’Asia Burney.

Burney, however, was lauded by her coach more for her defensive effort on Porter, UL’s all-Ohio standout.

“I call her “The Wizard” on defense because she’s phenomenal,” he said. “She can read people so well. She has quick hands. She doesn’t score a lot of points. But she doesn’t care about that. She just wants to do the dirty work.”

Farrier expressed the amount of respect he has for Porter and said holding her to single digits is a feat.

“Our girls enjoy that challenge,” he said. “UL is a good team. They’re a two-time OVAC champ. I think our girls get up for games like this.”

Freshman Casey Kildow scored a career-high 21 points for the Jets, while Hannah Porter had 16.

Union Local is scheduled to play host to Beaver Local on Saturday, although Mother Nature could thwart those plans.

The Big Reds, who play host to Barnesville on Monday, also claimed the JV contest, 40-29.