Bellaire slips past Sandy Valley

Photo by Nick Henthorn Bellaire’s Zara Harveth dribbles around a screen on the wing Wednesday in the No. 4 Big Reds’ first-round matchup against No. 9 Sandy Valley on Feb. 21, 2024 inside the House of Champions.

BELLAIRE — The Lady Big Reds began their OHSAA D-III post-season basketball journey in successful fashion Wednesday night at the House of Champions.

Fourth-seeded Bellaire bounced ninth-seeded Sandy Valley into elimination via a hard-earned 47-43 triumph. The Lady Reds’ 15th win of the season propels them into Saturday’s co-sectional final against Meadowbrook. The 9-12 and eighth-seeded Lady Colts received an opening round bye.

Magnolia-based Sandy Valley bows out of the campaign with an 8-14 record.

“Coach A (Gene Ammirante) told me years ago that you are just hoping to survive and move on in the tournament,” Bellaire head coach John Farrier said. “It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t easy but we are moving on.”

The outcome was up for grabs until Bellaire junior standout Zara Harveth goaled with 11.6 second remaining, giving the hosts a comfortable 47-41 lead.

Harveth led all scorers with 24 points. She is now just nine points shy of a 1,000. Sweet-shooting junior Rhyan O’Grady enjoyed a sparkling effort with 18 points, 11 coming in the opening half.

“I thought Sandy Valley came out and played with more energy than we did,” Farrier said. “They hurt us on loose balls and rebounds in the first half. Rhyan’s three 3’s in the first half were really big for us.

“We came out and played more aggressively in the second half. We had the chance to put the game away on several occasions but we made some sloppy turnovers,” added the veteran coach. “But we executed down the stretch when we needed to. So we do advance.”

Bellaire owned a 15-9 lead after one quarter. Harveth (8) and O’Grady (6) combined for 14 of those markers. The Lady Reds’ full court pressure forced the Lady Cards into six turnovers in the frame.

Sandy Valley trimmed the Bellaire advantage to 23-21 at halftime. O’Grady and Harveth again teamed up in the third frame to enable the hosts to stretch their lead to 39-31 entering the fourth chapter. O’Grady delivered seven points in the quarter with Harveth donating six tallies.

Bellaire appeared to be in solid shape after a Harveth hoop, which came off a sweet out-of-bounds saving pass from Sidney Rowson, gave the Lady Reds a 43-35 edge with just over two minutes to play.

Sandy Valley, however, made things interesting on a hoop by Zoe Ward followed by a trey from Emma Fulk, making it a 43-40 reading with 1:01 remaining. Harveth slowed the Sandy Valley surge with a driving hoop with 39.5 left, pushing Bellaire’s lead to 45-40.

Lady Cardinals’ guard Peyton Nicholson meshed one-of-two free throws to draw the visitors to within four before Harveth delivered the dagger with her goal with under 12 seconds showing.

Nicholson was the lone Sandy Valley performer in double digits, netting 12 markers.

In addition to Harveth’s and O’Grady’s strong efforts, Farrier received solid contributions from senior ace Allie Ault and junior Eliana Mason. Ault made several key steals in the fourth period while Mason did a fine job of directing the Bellaire offense.

“Meadowbrook is going to be another tough test,” Farrier said. “They are aggressive and play a 1-3-1 defense but they do like to mix things up. It’s nice to be playing at home.”

Bellaire and Meadwobrook will tip it off Saturday at 1 p.m

Bellaire was guilty of 14 turnovers. Sandy Valley committed 16 miscues.


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