BELPRE-Whatever Belpre head coach Scott Miller said to his Golden Eagles during the halftime of their home encounter with Tri Valley Conference rival Federal Hocking, it worked as the hosts went on a 21-8 run in the third quarter en route to defeating the Lancers by a 67-53 margin on Monday.
"Needless to say, I wasn't happy," said Miller following his team's 12th victory of the season. "The difference was defense. We were scoring plenty of points, but we weren't playing defense."
That changed during the decisive third quarter as the Golden Eagles held Federal Hocking to 4-of-13 from the field. More importantly, Belpre held the Lancers' Cheyenne Singer, who had 16 of the visitors' 31 first half points, to a single bucket-that coming in the final second of the frame.
Photo by Jeff Baughan
Federal Hocking's Cheyenne Singer is fouled by Belpre's Lexus Cunningham as she attempts to shoot the ball Monday at the Belpre gymnasium.
"It always comes down to defense,"said Miller. "In the second half it (the defense) was much better. But, we still allowed them to get the ball inside too easily. Overall, I think we wore them down in the second half and that allowed us to come up with some big steals and force a lot of turnovers."
Big is right.
After a Claudia Hall layin knotted the game at 35 with 5:10 showing on the third quarter clock, first Sierra Barker and then Katelyn Hughes came up with steals and turned them into buckets as the Golden Eagles took the lead for good, 39-35, with 4:54 left in the frame.
"Those two steals were huge," said Miller. "They changed the momentum of the game and we never trailed after that."
Belpre, now 12-6 overall with a home game against Trimble on Thursday, continued to open up its advantage as a triple by Katelyn Hughes, a rebound bucket by Lexus Cunningham and a trey from Barker pushed the margin to 12, 47-35, with 90 seconds left in the quarter.
Carley Tabler finally got the visitors back on the scoreboard with a bucket at the 1:11 mark, but it was too little, too late as Belpre took an 11-point, 50-39, lead into the final eight minutes of action.
Barker, who scored a game-high 27 points in Belpre's 69-51 victory over the Lancers back on Dec. 6, finished with 19 points and joined teammate Katelyn Hughes (19) for team-high scoring honors while Cunningham chipped in with nine points and nine rebounds before fouling out with 2:46 left to play.
Federal Hocking, now 5-11, received a game-high 25 points from Singer, 12 from Megan Thompson and 10 from Tabler in the loss.
"We are trying to improve our record as much as we can before Sunday's sectional draw," said Miller. "We lost to Trimble by two up at their place on Jan. 3rd, so a win against them on Thursday would go a long way in improving our draw."