BELLAIRE - Union Local appeared to be on cruise control Monday night en route to its third victory in four outings.
Leading by 17 entering the fourth quarter and having basically everything going their way, the Jets were making it look easy.
However, Bellaire, which has shown the ability to be scrappy during this young season, came alive and took the game over. But, the Big Reds were never able to get any closer than three as the Jets escaped with a 67-63 victory.
"Bellaire got really rough in the fourth quarter," first-year Union Local coach Kelley Hanlon. "It wasn't basketball. It was way too physical, but we were able to stick it out and that's the most important thing."
Bellaire coach Marci Quirk, who cut her coaching teeth at Union Local, wasn't at all pleased with settling for any kind of moral victory.
"We didn't play until the fourth quarter," Quirk said. "I told the girls we looked unathletic and we were jumping with our hands, which we never do. In the fourth quarter we came out and played the way we were supposed to play."
The Big Reds' furious attempt at a comeback was necessary because Union Local seized control early, leading 20-9 after one, 38-23 at hafltime and then 54-37 entering the final quarter.
"We should have never been down that (many)," Quirk said. "We dug ourselves a hole by fouling. Our heads weren't here until the fourth quarter and I don't know what to do to change that because before the game I thought (the girls) were pumped up and ready to go."
The Jets executed their offense well and got several easy scoring chances for savvy senior Cori Medley, who makes winning plays on both ends of the court. However, they were balanced in the opening three quarters.
In the fourth, the Big Reds forced the Jets into seven turnovers, many of which were because of that physical pressure Hanlon was referencing. Kierstyn Kidder, Cari Crozier and Nina Crook fueled the Big Reds.
Union Local appeared to be safe after Kylie Russell dropped in two of her 20 to push the margin back to 64-53.
Bellaire, however, scored the next eight. The run was ignited by a Kidder 3-pointer. Crozier got a rebound and basket with 1:23 to go, making it 64-60. Bellaire got within three twice, but Medley sank 3 of 4 at the line down the stretch to seal the deal.
"We might have been tired (down the stretch)," Hanlon said. "I thought about going to a zone, but the girls wanted to stick with the man, which had worked to that point, so I let them do it."
Medley has become a staple during her four-year career. She had a typical night, netting 24 points, grabbing eight rebounds, making four steals and blocking a shot. Russell, however, had "her best game," according to Hanlon. Her point production complemented her ball handling against the Big Reds press.
"Kylie had struggled the first couple of games, but she really showed up," Hanlon said.
Abby Collins chipped in with 11 points and five rebounds.
Bellaire's trio teamed for all but two of the its points. Crook had 23, Kidder finished with 20 before fouling out and Crozier had a double-double with 18 points and 12 rebounds.