Bellaire has found itself in countless tight games through the course of the early portion of the season.
However, for the first time, Saturday afternoon inside the 'Greenhouse' at St. John Central, the Lady Big Reds found themselves on the winning end.
Bellaire appeared as if it was going to waltz to victory, but had to fight off a spirited late spurt by the Lady Irish before earning a 50-46 victory.
BELLAIRE’S Kierstyn Kidder brings the ball up the court against St. John’s Kristen Russell during the second half of Saturday’s game. Bellaire won, 50-46.
"We've been in a lot of tight games and to finally win on, I think speaks of how much better we're getting," said Bonar.
Both teams were behind the proverbial 8-ball to a degree. Bellaire (4-7) was without leading scorer and floor leader Cari Crozier and St. John Central (5-4) was once again without frosh pivot Lindsey Froelich, who is sidelined with a foot problem.
"We just found out this morning that Cari wouldn't be able to play," Bonar said. "We looked out of sync at times on offense because we've really never had to play without Cari, but we stepped up and made plays when we needed to."
Part of the feeling out process resulted in a 13-all deadlock after one period.
Looking at a 16-13 deficit, Bellaire closed the half on a 14-2 run to lead 27-18 at the break. Freshman Nina Crook, who got the start with Crozier's absence, tallied eight points in the second.
Early in the game, Bellaire took advantage of Froehlich's absence in the paint by throwing the ball into Aubrey Ryan, who scored 10 of her 13 points in the first half.
"Aub had a great first half," Bonar confirmed. "We kept getting the ball into her and she was scoring. Plus, she had some big rebounds late in the game."
The Lady Irish, who've dropped two straight this week, got on a run of their own to begin the third quarter. They scored the first nine points to knot the game.
Hard-working senior Kristen Russell, who scored a game-high 28 points, sparked the run with a conventional three-point play.
Bellaire finally stopped the bleeding with 4:02 to play in the third when sophomore Kierstyn Kidder tallied. That bucket ignited a 11-0 run, which spanned nearly three minutes before Russell scored. Bellaire led 39-31 after three.
"The way we were able to answer (St. John's) runs was great," Bonar said. "The girls really got key buckets when we needed them. This is a really nice win for us."
The Lady Reds appeared ready to put the game on ice as they stretched the margin to as many as 15 at 48-33, but an 11-1 run - with Russell at the command - got St. John within five at 49-44 with 1:24 to go.
"We played hard enough, but we talked about going into the game that we also had to play smart," said Lady Irish head coach Bubba Kapral. "At times, we do some things that just aren't very smart. I told the girls to not let people tell them this was a great comeback because if you do what you're supposed to do, you don't need to make a comeback. It's only a great comeback if you win."
Kidder, who finished with 13 points, got one-of-two at the line to end the run. After two Kaydie Coppa free throws, St. John forced another Bellaire turnover, but proceeded to give the ball right back and the clock ran out.
"We played hard enough, but we can't alibi," Kapral said. "We didn't do smart things. I don't know if we get into a comfort zone or what. But, we can't put ourselves behind by 15. We did play with great passion and energy when we fell behind."
The Lady Reds were balanced in the scoring column with Kidder, Ryan and Crook all going for 13. Myleah Green added eight points and 10 boards.
After Russell's production, which included 10 boards, St. John had no player with more than four points.
Both teams were charted for 22 turnovers.
Bellaire returns to action Thursday at unblemished Bridgeport. St. John is off until it treks to Paden City on Saturday.
No reserve game was contested.
BELLAIRE (50) - Garloch 0, 0-0 0; Kidder 4, 4-6 13; Messenger 0, 1-4 1; Gillespie 1, 0-0 2; Ryan 6, 1-2 13; Crook 4, 2-2 13; Green 4, 0-1 8; Totals: 19, 8-15 50. ST. JOHN (46) - Coppa 0, 3-4 3; Sliva 1, 1-2 3; Rose 1, 2-3 4; DeLuca 2, 0-0 4; Russell 11, 5-6 28; Alvey 2, 0-0 4; Totals: 17, 11-15 46.
Three-Point Goals: B - Kidder, Crook (3). SJC - Russell.
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