Bellaire Holds Off Tusky Valley

Photo by Sheri McAninch Bellaire’s Katrina Davis tries to drive around a pair of Tusky Valley defenders Saturday in Bellaire.

BELLAIRE — John Farrier has amassed a slew of wins during his short tenure as Bellaire’s head coach. None, however, was bigger than the one Saturday afternoon at The House of Champions.

Farrier’s Big Reds exhibited toughness, resolve and tremendous balance in knocking off Tuscarawas Valley, 70-63, in an OHSAA Division III sectional co-final.

The triumph improved No. 3 seeded Bellaire to a superb 21-3 mark while also punching its ticket into the district tournament. The Big Reds will face Garaway, which ousted Morgan on Saturday, on Wednesday at a site to be determined today.

The No. 4 seeded Trojans bow out with a sparkling 19-5 campaign, its first in the Inter Valley Conference. Tusky Valley advanced to the regionals a year ago.

“I am really happy for our girls. They have worked so hard to get to this point,” Farrier said. “They have done all the little things that needed to be done and have put in a great amount of time. We received solid contributions from everyone who we called upon.”

A handful of Big Reds turned in stellar performances, four of whom reached double figures.

Standout junior point guard Natalie Stoner led the Bellaire attack with 20 points, including three 3-pointers. Classmate Maci Crozier was her usual strong self, netting 15 points, 13 coming in the second half helping the Big Reds turn back several Trojans runs.

The Sisters Davis each scored 14 points. Senior Cierra set the tone early on, scoring the hosts’ first eight points. Talented sophomore Katrina sealed Tusky Valley’s fate by going 12 of 12 at the line, 10 coming in a wild fourth quarter. Super sub Michaela Flaherty, who would start for most teams, produced nine points and solid post play.

“We did a great job at the foul line. The girls have put a lot of extra time with their free throws and it paid dividends today,” Farrier said. “We usually rely on our press to score.We didn’t turn them over and were still able to put 70 points on the board.

“We have a lot of girls who can score and that was reflected today,” he added. “That has been the case all year.”

The foul line proved pivotal for Bellaire. The Big Reds sank 31 of 39 attempts while Tusky Valley made 5 of 13.

“We knew it would be tough coming here. Bellaire is a fine team with a lot of weapons,” Tusky Valley coach Matt Ward said. “We broke their press but failed to finish. We missed a lot of easy shots. The foul situation obviously hurt us as well.”

Thanks to Cierra Davis’s strong start, Bellaire led the entire first half, owning a 20-18 lead after one quarter and 36-30 upperhand at intermission. The Trojans tightened matters up in the third, narrowing the deficit to 46-45 entering the fourth period.

The lead exchanged hands several times in the final session.

Stoner delivered a conventional three-point play to boost Bellaire to a 59-56 lead with less than three minutes to play. An Amy Dillon trey knotted matters with 2:24 to play.

After each team missed from the floor, Katrina Davis netted two free throws with 1:49 to play, giving the Big Reds a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. After a Tusky Valley turnover, Katrina Davis added two more freebies for a 63-59 Bellaire edge,

Two buckets by Trojan ace Kierra Stewart, sandwiched around a Crozer free throw, brought Tusky Valley to within 64-63 with 33 seconds showing.

Stoner pushed the lead back to three with two free throws at the 22.2 lighting. After a Trojans miss, Katrina Davis was fouled followed by a technical foul issued against Ward. She meshed all four free throws to drive the final nails into the Trojan coffin.

“This is a nice win for the program. One of our goals this year was to advance farther than last year (Bellaire lost to Ridgewood in last year’s sectional co-final),” Farrier said. “So now we want to continue to climb the ladder. Garaway is a lot like us. They are guard driven with no real big posts. We know it will be a battle but our girls will be ready for the challenge.”