OSSIAN – Make it two-for-two.
After beating Norwell for the first time in 15 tries two weeks ago, the Bellmont girls repeated the feat Tuesday night, beating the Knights 61-51 in the first round of the Class 3A sectionals.
"This is huge for us," Bellmont's Meghan Busick said after the game. "This was one of our biggest goals, and to do it twice is really, really awesome."
In the prior meeting, the NE8 regular-season title was on the line. This time, the stakes were even higher, as a loser of the matchup between No. 3 (Bellmont) and No. 4 (Norwell) would find its season suddenly cut short.
"The pressure was certainly on more, because it was sectionals, but at the same time we knew we had it in us and we knew we could do it, so that sort of helped us keep our cool and play our game," Busick said.
Tuesday's game played out much like the last one, a hard-fought eight-point win by by Bellmont (20-2). The Knights (19-3) lead 15-11 at the end of the first quarter, but Bellmont took a 17-16 lead in the second on a basket by Emma Keane, and led by two points at halftime. Busick got hot in the second half, scoring 19 of her game-high 24 points in the third and fourth quarters.
"The result was pretty similar, and the game was pretty similar," Bellmont coach Andy Heim said. "If you look at our games the next night, we both fell flat on our faces, because we were tired and worn-out. This was the same kind of game, physical. We're not hiding much, they're not hiding much."
Even with a minute remaining in the game, the Knights trailed by nine points and still had an outside shot of tying or reclaiming the lead. Breann Barger had possession and barreled to the hoop, but instead of cutting the lead to seven with a layup was called for a charge, her fifth foul. She was one of three players to foul out of the fast-paced, physical game.
"If we can't get up for Norwell, our rival, then I don't know what the girls are doing," Heim said. "They were up for it the first time, they were up for it this time. Yes, probably in the back of Grace (Hunter)'s head, she's thinking, 'This could be my last game.' But I don't think that made us play any harder. They just wanted to beat Norwell another time."
Hunter scored 20 points to keep her high school career alive for at least one more game, and she and Busick each grabbed seven rebounds. Maiah Shelton scored a team-high 17 points for the Knights.
The game was moved up by an hour in anticipation of bitterly cold temperatures Tuesday night, but the other sectional games scheduled to be held during the school week have already been postponed. That's nothing but good news for Bellmont, given that both rivals lost a day after their first exhausting meeting.
"This couldn't have worked out any better for us," Heim said. "For us to play the first game on Tuesday, and then we get a couple days to rest and recuperate, that's ideal."