By John Bombatch
RIVERSIDE — After at least four years of these annual nonleague battles, the Carroll vs. Bellbrook girls basketball game has become an early-season tradition. Both teams know to expect a battle, and both use the experience to better themselves for league and post season play down the road.
Wednesday’s battle was another example of the nonleague rivalry’s intensity, as visiting Bellbrook fought off a Carroll comeback to escape Carroll’s gym with a 54-51 win.
In the end, it was the Golden Eagles’ team depth that earned them the hard-fought win. Stephanie Dorn finished with a team-high 14 points, Gabby Boyer added 12 points and Olivia Greathouse finished the night with 10 for Bellbrook (6-0).
“Carroll is one of those consistent programs. They’re always tough. They have a great coach, great players, and it’s always a close game,” said Bellbrook coach Jason Tincher. “We enjoy playing them because we always know that we’re going to get a test.”
In the past four years, including Wednesday night’s contest, the winning margin has been six points or less. Carroll won the battle in 2013 and 2014; Bellbrook has now won the last two meetings.
“I was just proud of how we played. We took the game to them and played as hard as we could. We played solid defense and we knew we had to rebound well. They rebound so well. Overall, I think we did that. Every time they would try to answer with a run, we would find a way to answer back, and that’s nice to see our young team answer the bell.
“We need to get a little better at the free-throw line, and we fouled a lot, but those are things that we can improve on.”
Bellbrook started out hot from the charity stripe, hitting 11 of 12 free throw opportunities to grab a 27-18 lead at the break. But with Carroll closing the gap and the Patriots student section screaming in their ears, the Golden Eagles still managed to hit 6 of 11 tries in the second half. Unofficially, Bellbrook committed 18 total fouls in the game.
Carroll coach Rob Berry said his Pats never seemed to be able to bounce completely back in Wednesday’s game.
“We were very inefficient in the first half, but we were still in the game,” he said. “So we switched up our defense and put a little bit more pressure on them, and we had three different runs where we got back within one possession of them.
“But we’d either cough up a turnover, or miss the front end of a free throw — we missed two front-end free throws that I can recall. That’s the second game we’ve lost this year, because we were shooting free throws around 50 percent. You’re not going to win close games when you’re shooting free throws at 50 percent.”
Carroll (2-3) hit 13 of its 20 free throw tries, and Amanda Schroeder hit 10 of those. Schroeder’s 26 points led all scorers, and unofficially she had 17 rebounds and at least two blocks. Hannah Ritter was the next best Patriot scoring threat with eight points.
“She’d missed our first three games, but she’s our sturdiness inside,” Berry said of Schroeder’s performance. “She gets the rebounds, she takes fouls and she’s a pretty good freethrow shooter. She is our workhorse and really does an outstanding job for us.”
Carroll returns to Greater Catholic League, Co-Ed action at 1 p.m. Saturday when they’ll host Cincinnati Purcell Marian. Bellbrook is back in its Southwestern Buckeye League, Southwestern Division schedule with a 1:15 p.m. home contest with Franklin on Saturday.