Buckeye Local was riding a two-game winning streak heading into Thursday's return bout with Buckeye 8 rival Bellaire.
The Panthers were also the unfortunate beneficiaries of having not played since Dec. 20.
Coach Willy Luther was worried about his team starting rusty and his worries were founded as Bellaire forced 10 first quarter turnovers, received 19 first-half points from Kierstyn Kidder and cruised to a 59-40 victory in the All-American town.
BUCKEYE LOCAL’S Kayla Fillipovich goes up for a shot as Bellaire’s Aubrey Ryan defends during Thursday’s game. Bellaire prevailed, 59-40. Additional images may be found at cu.timesleaderonline.com
"We were rusty early," Luther said as his team fell to 2-8. "You could tell we hadn't played in a while.
"At the end of the second (quarter), we gave up five points in 44 seconds. At the end of the third, we gave up five points in 20 seconds. Each time we had the lead down to single digits, we gave up easy buckets."
The Big Reds were clicking early.
Riding the hot hand of Kidder, who canned four 3-pointers in the first half as part of her game-high 21 points, the Reds took a 18-12 lead after one and watched that lead balloon to 32-19 at the half.
Their pressure forced Buckeye into some early miscues that were converted into points.
"Our press looked real good early but we he had to back it off a bit because we got into foul trouble," Bellaire coach Marci Bonar noted with her team improving to 5-9. "We got a little sloppy at the end of the game, but overall, our effort was there."
While Kidder carried the bulk of the scoring load early, she wasn't alone in making contributions.
Despite a noticeable disadvantage in the height department, the Big Reds crashed the boards hard, especially on the offensive end where they totaled 18 offensive rebounds for the game.
That work on the glass led to multiple second-chance points early.
"Pretty much every team we play against is taller than us so we have to outwork teams with our hustle and effort and we were able to do that," Bonar said.
Cari Crozier led that charge, snagging 10 rebounds to go with her 13 points. Kidder had six and Myleah Green had eight.
Early on, Bellaire was able to take care of the ball. As the game wore on, the Reds' play got a bit sloppy.
Buckeye Local's taller defenders were able to get their arms up and out into the passing lanes, deflecting the ball and recording steals.
Unfortunately, they Panthers were unable to convert for the most part.
"We forced some turnovers," Luther said. "We just couldn't convert any of those into easy buckets."
The Panthers never got into a rhythm offensively, failing to have a single player hit for double figures.
Kayla Fillipovich led Buckeye with seven points and seven rebounds while four players - Kierstyn Czuchran, Amy Balk, Becky Zeroski and Karlee Leonard each supplied six, with Zeroski and Leonard's totals coming off the bench.
Buckeye was within striking distance at 40-29 with 17 seconds to go in the third quarter when Nina Crook hit a bucket bucket to push the lead to 13. Following a Buckeye miss, Bellaire quickly pushed the ball up the floor for potential buzzer beater. Dallas Messenger uncorked from the wing, missing her shot but getting fouled in the process with two ticks left.
Messenger calmly sank all three free-throw attempts. to put the home team up 45-29 after three.
Buckeye was never able to get closer.
The Lady Reds made it a clean sweep for the evening with a 25-19 victory in the reserve contest.
BUCKEYE LOCAL (40) - Swiger 2 1-3 5; Fillipovich 3 1-2 7; Valuska 0 3-5 3; Czuchran 3 0-0 6; Balk 2 2-4 6; Zeroski 2 2-2 6; Leonard 2 2-2 6; Smith 0 0-0 0; Long 0 1-8 1; Banal 0 0-0 0; Moracco 0 0-0 0; Totals: 14-53 12-26 40. BELLAIRE (59) - Kidder 5 7-10 21; Messenger 2 3-5 7; Crozier 4 3-4 13; Ryan 1 1-1 3; Green 1 1-2 3; Crook 3 0-0 6; Gillespie 1 1-2 4; Maupin 1 0-0 2; Duffy 0 0-0 0; Garloch 0 0-0 0; Zichgras 0 0-0 0; Totals: 19-64 16-24 59.
Three-point Goals: Kidder (4), Crozier (2), Gillespie.
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