Big Reds Will Play for Title

It marks first appearance for Bellaire

Bellaire’s Cierra Davis (3) races the ball up the floor against Buckeye Trail defender Ashleigh Wheeler during their game Tuesday night.

ST. JOE — For the first time in the 11 years of the Wheeling Hospital OVAC Girls Basketball Championships, the 10-team field will include Bellaire.

After a disappointing home loss to Linsly in last season’s Class 3A semifinals, the top-seeded Big Reds (19-2) atoned for that Tuesday night with a 50-45 triumph over defending champion Buckeye Trail before a huge crowd inside the Bellaire Middle School gymnasium. The contest was postponed Monday and moved from Bellaire High School due to a major water line break.

“I told the girls at halftime that they deserved to be in the (OVAC) finals. I didn’t think we played very well in the first half. We turned the ball over a lot and missed a lot of layups,” Bellaire coach John Farrier said. “Buckeye Trail gets after it and they crank it, but I feel my girls deserve to be in the finals. All the work they put in and all the time they dedicate. We just had to go out and take it.”

That wouldn’t be easy as the fourth-seeded Warriors (13-5) had the momentum heading into the third quarter as Hannah Smith stole the ball at midcourt and drained a 3-pointer just ahead of the halftime buzzer. That sliced what had been a 10-point Bellaire lead to two, 21-19.

After a 16-16 deadlock in the third, the Warriors took a 38-37 lead early in the fourth quarter on Ashleigh Wheeler’s 3-Pointer.

However, the Big Reds tallied six unanswered points on baskets by Natalie Stoner, Katrina Davis and De’Asia Burney and never trailed again.

“Once we got the lead I thought we were going to OK, but we just gave them too many easy shots. We didn’t play real good defense,” Trail head coach Chris Starr said.

Bellaire, despite only having one double-digit scorer, used its balance and outside shooting to its advantage. Senior Cierra Davis had a game-high 18 points, while Stoner added nine before fouling out with a little more than a minute left. Katrina Davis chipped in eight points and pulled down a team-high 12 rebounds. Burney finished with six points and Michaela Flaherty had five off the bench.

“They made plays when it really mattered and we didn’t,” Starr said. “That was basically the difference.”

Buckeye Trail made good use of its decided height advantage as 5-foot-10 Jenni Carmichael and 6-1 Sam Cannor ruled the paint with double-doubles. Carmichael scored a team-best 17 points, with 15 coming after halftime, and grabbed 11 rebounds, while the sophomore Cannor added a dozen points and a game-leading 15 boards.

“Our big girls played well, but right now our guard play isn’t good enough,” Starr admitted. “Our inside game is good. Our problem is our guards aren’t looking to score or be aggressive. Our guard play has to be more consistent, and at times it has, but (Tuesday) it wasn’t very good.”

Neither team took care of the ball in the first half as they combined for 31 first-half turnovers, with the Warriors guilty of 17. Bellaire, however, only committed two in the second half to seven for Trail.

“We played much better in the second half,” Farrier said. “We took care of the ball a little better … we still had some turnovers, but when it came to crunch time, the girls gutted it out.”

Bellaire will look to avenge one of its two regular-season setbacks when it meets second-seeded Wheeling Central at 12:15 on Saturday in the second of five games at Ohio University Eastern.

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