By John Bombatch
LEBANON — Eighteen days ago, the Bellbrook Golden Eagles had to fight their way to a 33-31 win over Clarksville Clinton-Massie on the Falcons’ home floor. Thursday’s rematch, on a neutral floor at Lebanon High School, was a bit different.
Bellbrook’s Bekah Vine had the hot hand in the opening quarter, and the undefeated Golden Eagles (25-0) rolled to a 54-44 win in the final game of the Division II Lebanon 1 sectional tournament bracket.
“Bekah is our energizer out there, and her 26 points is a career high for her,” Bellbrook coach Jason Tincher said. “And then we’re asking her to stop Miquela (Santoro) at the point, and she stepped up to the challenge. I don’t know what we fed her before the game, but we need to keep doing that.”
Vine swished a game-high three 3-pointers, all in the opening quarter of play and finished with a game-high — and, as coach mentioned, a career-high — 26 points. The sophomore guard seemed almost embarrassed of her accomplishment after the game.
“I don’t know. We were just working hard and playing as a team,” Vine said. “We’d been preparing really hard for them all week, so it feels good to get the win.”
The first time the two teams met, back on Feb. 1, Bellbrook had jumped out to a 23-6 lead at halftime. Then Santoro exploded in the second half and nearly brought the Falcons all the way back.
This time, Bellbrook’s defense limited Santoro to 19 points while holding the rest of the Falcons lineup to nine points or less.
“We’ve got nice balance. I think we’re really tough when we do get that balance,” Tincher said. “With our guards scoring and playing defense like they do, it opens things up for (Gabby) Ozoude in the middle, and then I’ve got two nice forwards — (Gabby) Boyer and (Cassidy) Bereda — they are bulldogs and they’ll get after ya.
“It’s fun to coach these kids. They are hard-nosed.”
Bellbrook starters Vine (26), Ozoude (15), Cassidy Hofacker (12) and Bereda (1) accounted for all of the Golden Eagles’ points.
Clinton-Massie seniors Santoro (19 points), Emilie Fisher (2) and Madison Purkey (9) played their final games for the Falcons. Junior Madilyn Newton was the other Falcon to finish with nine points in the loss. The Falcons end their season with a 20-5 record.
Tincher said the last time Bellbrook played in a district title game was 2012.
“It was the 2011-‘12 season and we went all the way to the state Final Four. We played Kenton Ridge on that day as well, but we’ve gotta wait and see how that turns out with a very talented Benjamin Logan team, first,” he said.
Bellbrook will face either no. 4 seed Springfield Kenton Ridge or third-seeded Bellefontaine Benjamin Logan in the district title game. That title game will take place at 7 p.m. Friday, February 26 at Mason High School.
Kenton Ridge and Benjamin Logan will play their sectional finale at noon, Saturday, Feb. 20 at New Carlisle’s Tecumseh High School.