BRIDGEPORT - 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 coach Marci Bonar with her first victory at her alma mater.
And the Big Reds did so in exciting fashion, claiming a hard-fought, 57-47, overtime triumph against 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."
Trailing 47-43 with less than 20 seconds remaining, 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 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.
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.
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.
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 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."
For the game, the 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.
Nicole Smolenak led all scorers with 23 points for Bridgeport, while Higgenbotham added 10 and pulled down 12 rebounds.
In addition to Fry's 19 markers, Bellaire received 13 points from Corie Trigg, nine from Casey Garloch and eight from Crozier off the bench.