Note: This article originally appeared in the Mirror on Tuesday, March 9, 1999
Bishop Guilfoyle, Bellwood-Antis pull out titles
Class AA girls: Bellwood-Antis 52, Southern Huntingdon 50
By Philip Cmor
Mirror Sports Staff
Coming into the season, Bellwood-Antis girls’ basketball coach Melissa Tyler was just looking to get past the first round of the district playoffs, an impassable obstacle in each of her first two seasons at the helm.
Now the Lady Blue Devils are the District 6 Class AA champions.
Bellwood-Antis’ Amanda Smith scored on a fastbreak layup with two seconds left in the second overtime to give the Lady Blue Devils a 52-50 win over top-seeded Southern Huntingdon in the district final at the Altoona Area High School Fieldhouse Monday night.
Bellwood-Antis raised its record to 19-8 by defeating an opponent that had beaten it twice in the Juniata Valley League regular season and will now play Brentwood of the WPIAL Friday night at the AAHS Fieldhouse in the opening round of inter-districts.
Just winning one district game was far from a sure thing for Bellwood when the playoffs began. The Lady Blue Devils made it to the final by beating third seed Penns Manor, 63-47, in the quarterfinals and second seed Westmont Hilltop, 58-47, in the semis.
The win over Southern was certainly a fitting climax. When the Lady Blue Devils received their trophy, Tyler’s demeanor could be described as both exhausted and bubbling over.
“Wow,’’ Tyler said. “These kids ... they never give up and they never give up and they never give up. What, three overtimes?’’
No, Coach. Two.
“Well, it felt like four.’’
The game ended in the most inconceivable fashion imaginable. Bellwood had led by as many as 10 points in the first half, but Renee Hamilton’s turnaround jumper with 10 seconds left in regulation knotted the score at 44 for Southern Huntingdon.
Each team tallied a pair of field goals in the first overtime, but the Lady Rockets went up on Ashley Brooks’ layup at the beginning of the second extra session. Bellwood could not equalize until 1:12 was left, when Randi Baker yanked down one of her team-record 20 rebounds and put the ball back in the basket.
Southern Huntingdon worked the ball, nearly losing it a couple of times, as the clock wound down and it appeared the Lady Rockets would score in the final seconds or the game would go to third OT.
However, the ball ended up in a crowd near the basket and was tipped away. Bellwood’s Kim Potts picked it up and found Smith with an outlet near midcourt and seven seconds left. With Southern’s Amanda Zinobile giving chase, Smith dribbled in for the winning points.
Southern Huntingdon never got off a shot for the tie.
“I didn’t even know how much time was left,’’ Smith, a 5-foot-6 point guard, said. “I just saw Kim. Oh my gosh, I was so scared.’’
“At Williamsburg, we did exactly the same thing,’’ Tyler said, “only Randi Baker was at the end of it and this time it was Amanda Smith.’’
Lady Rockets players lay on the floor in exhaustion, sadness and disbelief following Smith’s basket. It was only Southern Huntingdon’s second loss in 26 games.
It was a long trip for the Lady Rockets, both literally and figuratively. Southern Huntingdon made the long drive to St. Francis College Saturday only to learn the game was postponed, then had to make the one-hour trip back to Altoona last night.
After fighting back from the 10-point deficit just to fall short, the Lady Rockets will now have to trek to Sharon to play Kennedy Christian in their first state playoff game.
“It’s just really tough to come this far,’’ Southern Huntingdon coach Phil Speck said. “The girls played hard. You’ve got to give Bellwood credit. They played tough defensively on us. They did what they had to get done.’’
Smith’s game-winner gave her 10 points, making her the fourth Lady Blue Devil to reach double digits. Baker scored a team-high 15 to go with her yeoman’s work on the boards. Misty Meredith and Pam Taylor finished with 10 points each.
It was Baker, though, who spearheaded Bellwood in the early going. As she grabbed 11 rebounds — six on the offensive end — the Lady Blue Devils built a 28-18 lead before going into the locker room with a six-point advantage.
With all the offensive boards, Bellwood took 11 more shots than Southern in the first half. Southern did shoot 18 first-half free throws, but made just 10.
“My offense wasn’t too good at the beginning of the year, so I knew I had to pick up on something. So I picked up on my rebounding,’’ Baker said. “We knew we could do it. We knew we were just as good as they were. We just put a lot of hard work into this.’’
Southern came back behind Zinobile and Marissa Cutshall, who scored 12 and 20, respectively.
The win was Bellwood’s 11th in 12 games and avenged the team’s only loss in that stretch. Bellwood was 8-7 after losing to Juniata Valley Jan. 22.
“Isn’t it just amazing?’’ asked Tyler. “The kids just pulled together. Halfway through the season, it was shaky and you didn’t know which way it would go. And they just regrouped and decided, ‘We are better than this.’ Andy they went out and did it.’’
BELLWOOD-ANTIS (52): Taylor 4 2-3 11, Smith 5 0-0 10, M. Meredith 4 1-4 10, Baker 6 3-4 15, VanOrmer 1 0-0 2, Potts 2 0-2 4, B. Meredith 0 0-0 0. Totals — 22 6-13 52.
SOUTHERN HUNTINGDON (50): Creswell 2 5-10 9, Zinobile 4 3-6 12, Steach 0 1-3 1, Cutshall 8 2-2 20, Brooks 2 0-1 4, Hamilton 2 0-0 4. Totals — 18 11-22 50.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Bellwood-Antis 11 17 10 6 4 4 — 52
Southern Huntingdon 12 10 13 9 4 2 — 50
3-point goals: Bellwood-Antis 2 (Taylor 1, M. Meredith 1). Southern Huntingdon 3 (Zinobile 1, Cutshall 2). Officials: Joe Bilka, Dick Smith, Gary Zimmerman. Records: Bellwood-Antis (19-8); Southern Huntingdon (24-2).
Next game: Bellwood-Antis will play Brentwood at the Altoona Fieldhouse in the opening round of the Class AA inter-districts Friday. Southern Huntingdon will play Kennedy Christian at Sharon in the opening round of the Class AA inter-districts Friday.