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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, February 05, 2019 1:00 am

Bellmont unable to convert chances

VICTORIA JACOBSEN | The Journal Gazette

OSSIAN – Trailing Marion 46-44 with a minute and a half to go, Bellmont had a chance to retake the lead, claim a sectional title and keep a dream season alive. 

And then Bellmont (21-3) had another chance, and another. But the Giants (21-4), who also missed multiple opportunities to pad their lead down the stretch, did just enough to foil Bellmont's efforts and claimed the Norwell Sectional title by that same 46-44 margin.

Bellmont had led 27-19 at halftime after shooting 6 for 10 as a team in the second quarter. But those good looks evaporated in the second half, as RaShaya Kyle, a 6-foot-6 center, got more comfortable in the game and began knocking down shots.  

“We probably got a little bit tired, and I think they turned up the pressure a little bit,” Bellmont coach Andy Heim said. 

The Giants cut the lead to 39-37 heading into the fourth quarter, and Olivia Aguilar opened the final period by immediately hitting a 3-pointer to put Marion up 40-39. Bellmont tied the game at 40-all and then 42-all but played the rest of the game from behind after Jazmyn Turner hit her first 3-pointer of the game. 

Bellmont attempted to inbound the ball after a timeout with 1:33 to go, but the pass was picked off by Marion's Ellie Vermillion. Luckily for Bellmont, Kyle was then called for an offensive foul as she backed toward the basket, knocking over Morgan Shifferly. 

Grace Hunter, who finished with a game-high 18 points, was denied during Bellmont's next trip down the court. Bellmont began fouling in the hopes of regaining possession after a free throw, but the strategy proved unnecessary when the Giants muffed a pass and the ball flew out of bounds. 

Bellmont's chances seemed up when, with 12 seconds to go, Kyle picked off a Bellmont pass and was immediately fouled. But she missed the front half of a one-and-one, and Hunter grabbed the rebound. 

This time, on Bellmont's actual last chance to tie, Kenzie McMahon threw up a layup that bounced off the rim. Shifferly caught the rebound and threw it back up, also unsuccessfully, and Emma Keane tossed up one last desperate heave, which never got past Kyle. 

And with that, the buzzer sounded, and the Giants ran, overjoyed, to their bench, while the Bellmont players stood stunned under their own basket.

“Hey, we got the look that we wanted,” Heim said of the final play. “But there was a lot of game that went on before that. That wasn't the play that defined us. We just had a couple of mental mistakes there in the middle.”

Heim said his team had focused on shutting down Turner and Kyle, and aside from one stretch in the third quarter when Kyle tipped in four layups, did so successfully.

But the real problems started when Aguilar started hitting 3s.

“We knew that that was probably going to be a little bit of trouble for us,” Heim said. “We can only guard so much.”

Aguilar came off the bench to lead the Giants with 12 points. Turner scored 11 and Kyle had 10. 

Meghan Busick did not play Monday. Heim said after the game that she tore her ACL during Saturday's semifinal win over Heritage.  

Although the Giants were the defending sectional champs, Bellmont, which had been one of the top-ranked teams in 3A, had taken over the role of the favorite after beating Norwell in the first round. 

“It's a tough one right now, but look, we met a couple of our goals this year,” Heim said. “We're a 20-win team, and not a lot of people can say that in this state. We've got to take something away from that hopefully.”

vjacobsen@jg.net