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Big Reds Ready to Go

By RICK THORP

BELLAIRE — John Farrier can’t wait to get the season started.

And who can blame him?

With six letterwinners back, including his top five scorers and five players who started at some point last winter, Farrier is chomping at the bit to get at it.

The Big Reds open the campaign tonight at Barnesville. And when they do they’ll begin what they hope will be a journey to building on an 8-14 record from a year ago that was filled with many triumphs, but many near-misses, too.

”We were on the fringe of some things,” Farrier said, ”but we just weren’t able to finish.”

Bellaire came up short of appearing in the Buckeye 8 championship game, but what the youthful Big Reds did, in the grand scheme of things, was quite remarkable.

With a first-year coach and a handful of first-year players, Bellaire gave almost all of their opponents a handful.

”It was an amazing season,” Farrier said. ”In my mind, I thought if we won eight it’d be an excellent season.”

The eight victories represented one of Bellaire’s best seasons in the last decade, and Farrier is confident more winning is coming this season, especially with the core of last year’s group returning.

”They know when to work hard and be competitive and they know when to encourage each other and pick each other up,” he said. ”Right now, I don’t think things can be going any better for us.”

The 205-16 campaign had a bit of a get-to-know-you feel to it with so many new faces on the roster. Farrier admitted there were many adjustments he had to make, along with his players. But, in the end, things went well.

”This year, though, they know what to expect and so do I,” he said. ”We hit the ground running at the beginning and that’s what’s exciting for me.”

A point of emphasis heading into the offseason was defense. Farrier was concerned about the Big Reds’ points allowed.

”But, sometimes that was a fault of our gameplan,” he said. ”We’d be up and down and pressing so, naturally, we were going to give up some easy shots. But we need to do a better job of of keeping people in front of us.

”That’s been a major emphasis — cutting down on the other team’s scoring. And you do that through playing better defense and limiting second-chance opportunities.”

The Big Reds worked on those things during the summer through a variety of activities, including the Steubenville Shootout, where they were runners-up.

”The girls put their time in,” Farrier said. ”I thought they played very well. I was very pleased with how we played in the summer.

”Now, you can’t buy a whole lot into that sometimes, but I was happy with how competitive we were. I think it will pay off.”

Bellaire has 15 players on the roster at the high school level and Farrier foresees seven playing important varsity roles.

Maci Crozier (5-foot-5) burst onto the scene as a freshman last year, exploding for 35 points in one outing.

”I look for better things from her,” Farrier said. ”She’s quick, plays the post and does a good job of fighting for rebounds and boxing out.

”She’s undersized in the post, but she really uses her body in there.”

Natalie Stoner (5-4) is another sophomore who saw time in the starting lineup last season as a freshman. She, along with Crozier, started every game.

”She can shoot the ball well,” Farrier said of the point guard. ”She’s really quick. I think she’ll be one of the quickest players around.”

Cierra Davis (5-3), a junior, spent plenty of time on the floor last winter for the Big Reds and returns with a shooter’s mentality once again.

”If she misses one, she’ll get the next one,” Farrier said. ”That’s what you need a lot of. She won’t back down. She has confidence. I want her to shoot. That’s what I like about her.”

De’Asia Burney (5-1) is the other junior returning starter. She can play the point, too.

”She put in a ton of time in the offseason,” Farrier noted. ”She can shoot really well and she’s selfless on the court. She doesn’t shoot enough. I’m trying to get her to shoot more.

”She’s also very smart defensively. She has a good feel for the game.”

Senior Taylor Stoner (5-5) has, according to Farrier, an endless motor.

”She’s kind of a slasher and can shoot the ball pretty well from the outside,” he said. ”She fits in well with our style of play.”

Farrier is also high on sophomore Michaela Flaherty (5-8) and freshman Katrina Davis (5-2).

Others in the mix are junior Tabitha Gulla (5-5) and sophomores Sydney Purtiman (5-5), Brittany Falcone (5-4) and Brittney Beckett (5-4).

Farrier is assisted by Hutch McFeley, a fellow Bellaire grad, who replaces Jon Perkins, now the head boys’ coach at Monroe Central. Chris Arno and Maggie Hendershot are the eighth- and seventh-grade coaches, respectively.

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