BELLAIRE - Union Local appeared to be on cruise control Monday night en route to its third victory in four outings.
Leading by 17 entering the fourth quarter and having basically everything going their way, the Lady Jets were making it look easy.
However, Bellaire, which has shown the ability to be scrappy during this young season, came alive and took the game over. But, the Lady Reds were never able to get any closer than three as the Lady Jets escaped with a 67-63 victory.
"Bellaire got really rough in the fourth quarter," said first-year Union Local head coach Kelley Hanlon. "It wasn't basketball. It was way too physical, but we were able to stick it out and that's the most important thing."
Bellaire head coach Marci Quirk - who cut her coaching teeth at Union Local - wasn't at all pleased with settling for any kind of moral victory.
"We didn't play until the fourth quarter," Quirk said. "I told the girls we looked unathletic and we were jumping with our hands, which we never do. In the fourth quarter, we came out and played the way we were supposed to play."
The Lady Reds furious attempt at a comeback was necessary because Union Local seized control early, leading 20-9 after one, 38-23 at the intermission and then 54-37 entering the final chapter.
"We should have never been down that (many)," Quirk said. "We dug ourselves a hole by fouling. Our heads weren't here until the fourth quarter and I don't know what to do to change that because before the game I thought (the girls) were pumped up and ready to go."
The Lady Jets executed their offense well and got several easy scoring chances for savvy senior Cori Medley, who makes winning plays on both ends of the court. However, the Lady Jets were balanced in the opening three panels.
In the fourth, the Lady Reds forced the Lady Jets into seven turnovers, many of which were because of that physical pressure that Hanlon was referencing. Kierstyn Kidder, Cari Crozier and Nina Crook fueled the Lady Reds.
Union Local appeared to be safe after Kylie Russell dropped in two of her 20 to push the margin back to 64-53.
Bellaire, however, scored the next eight. The run was ignited by a Kidder bonus goal. Crozier - the hard-working senior - got a rebound and goal with 1:23 to go, making it 64-60. Bellaire got within three twice, but Medley sank three-of-four at the line down the stretch to seal the deal.
"We might have been tired (down the stretch)," Hanlon said. "I thought about going to a zone, but the girls wanted to stick with the man, which had worked to that point, so I let them do it."
Medley has become a staple during her four-year career. She had a typical night for her, netting 24 points, grabbing eight rebounds, making four steals and blocking a shot. Russell, however, had "her best game," according to Hanlon. Her point production complemented her ball handling against the Lady Reds' press.
"Kylie had struggled the first couple of games, but she really showed up tonight," Hanlon said.
Abby Collins chipped in with 11 points and five rebounds.
Bellaire's aforementioned three-pronged attack teamed for all but two of the Lady Reds' points. Crook had 23. Kidder finished with 20 before fouling out and Crozier had a double-double with 18 points and 12 rebounds.
Union Local held a slim, 34-33, edge on the glass. The Lady Jets' 21 turnovers were two more than the hosts.
The Lady Jets made it a clean sweep on the evening with a 28-25 victory in the jayvee encounter.
Union Local returns home to take on John Marshall on Thursday. Bellaire, meanwhile, treks to St. Clairsville the same evening.
UNION LOCAL (67) - Medley 9, 6-7 24; Swallie 2, 1-2 5; Russell 8, 2-4 20; Collins 5, 1-1 11; Patton 0, 2-2 2; Butler 0, 1-2 1; Delaney 1, 1-3 4; Totals: 25, 14-21 67. BELLAIRE (63) - Kidder 6, 5-7 20; Crozier 8, 2-4 18; Crook 8, 4-6 23; Ryan 0, 0-0 0; Gillespie 0, 0-0 0; Garloch 1, 0-0 2; Smith 0, 0-0 0; Maupin 0, 0-0 0; Totals: 23, 11-17 63.
3-point Goal: UL - Russell (2), Delaney. B - Kidder (3), Crook (3).
UL - 20; 18; 16; 13 - 67
Bell - 9; 14; 14; 26 - 63