MONROE — Jason Tincher has been trying to instill more confidence in sophomore shooter Bailey Zerby.
“We’ve had many conversations,” the Bellbrook High School girls basketball coach said.
Message heard loud and clear.
The move-in from Wilmington made four three-pointers during a momentum seizing run in the first half and had a game-high 21 points to lead Bellbrook to a 46-34 win over Monroe Feb. 2 in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score may indicate. Zerby — who made more than two three-pointers one other time this season — sparked a 7-0 run in the final 1:06 of the first quarter with a three-pointer to help give the Golden Eagles a 14-7 lead, and then she hit three more in the first four minutes of the second quarter to give Bellbrook a 23-10 lead.
“I think I was more positive today,” Zerby said. “I was ready to play. I didn’t see any driving opportunities. It was better to pull myself out and shoot first.”
As a non-starter, Zerby’s 12 first-half points were just one less than Monroe’s total as Bellbrook led 23-13 at halftime. Until she checked in, neither team led by more than two points.
“I was coming off the bench, it gave me the opportunity (to spark the Golden Eagles),” Zerby said.
Credit the Bellbrook defense too. After a sluggish start, the Golden Eagles (11-9 overall, 8-3 Southwestern Buckeye League Southwestern Division) kicked the defense up a notch and forced a handful of turnovers late in the first quarter to help ignite the offense.
“We want a more up-tempo game,” Tincher said. “They just kept putting the pressure on them offensively and defensively. Trying to get used to their zone. Find some creases.”
And hit a few three-pointers.
“It was huge,” Tincher said of Zerby’s barrage. “She shoots the ball well. Extremely well. When you’re playing a team in a zone and they’re able to spread it out with some threes, it helps in all areas.”
Maria Mescher and Maren Freudenschuss each hit three-pointers in the early third quarter to give Bellbrook a 29-17 lead with 4:59 left. Monroe (10-7, 5-5) cut it to 30-21 late in the first but Zerby hit a pull-up three with 57 seconds left to make it a 33-21 game after three quarters.
Mescher, Freudenschuss and Zerby scored six straight to start the fourth to make it a 39-21 lead with 4:32 left. Zerby’s bucket was ESPN worthy as she corralled a ball jabbed away by Freudenschuss and made a layup after a 360-degree spin in the lane.
“I’ve been working on that for a pretty long time,” Zerby said.
Monroe’s Katie Sloneker hit a couple late three-pointers and twin sister Sophie a three-pointer to make it a closer score. Sophie finished with 12 and Katie 10 to lead Monroe. Freudenschuss scored 10 and Mescher nine for Bellbrook, which has won won five in a row and seven of eight.
The Golden Eagles are at Carlisle 7:15 p.m. Thursday Feb. 7 and visit Badin 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 9 before closing the season with Eaton 7:15 p.m. Monday, Feb. 11.