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Bellefontaine rattles Cougars, but falls short at finish line

Bellefontaine’s girls basketball team is on the verge of joining the elite teams in the Central Buckeye Conference, but still has a little bit of work left to do.

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Bellefontaine’s Jazmyn Haley takes a shot over Kenton Ridge’s Sydney Bates during Saturday’s game at Bellefontaine High School. (EXAMINER PHOTO | MATT HAMMOND)

That was evident Saturday night as the resurgent Chiefs pushed longtime league nemesis Kenton Ridge to the limit before coming up three points short in a 75-72 loss.

It was the second straight loss for the Chiefs after a 4-0 start. They are 4-2 overall and 1-1 in the CBC Kenton Trail division. The Cougars move to 4-1, 1-1.

“People talk about being ready to turn the corner,” said BHS head coach Brian Hogan. “We feel like we are standing right there looking at it, but we are not quite there yet.”

After more than a decade of being handed lopsided losses by the running-and-gunning Cougars, Bellefontaine gave them everything they could handle Saturday.

However, Kenton Ridge made some big baskets in the clutch to escape with its close win.

“I told the girls after the game that we battled them the entire way,” said Hogan. “In the past we were not able to do that. I am proud of the effort. We just have to finish.”

The two teams waged an entertaining see-saw offensive clash.

Known for its trademark full-court press, Kenton Ridge struggled to contain Bellefontaine’s athletic guards as the Chiefs consistently beat the Cougars down the floor for easy baskets.

Bellefontaine led by nine points during the opening quarter and held a seven-point advantage (21-14) at the end of the period.

“They tried to press us, but realized they could not stay with our guards,” said Hogan. “They pulled it off and we were able to go inside and score, too. We pretty much did whatever we wanted to do offensively.”

The smaller Cougars struggled with Bellefontaine’s size inside early on, but they were able to counter with some stellar outside shooting.

Kenton Ridge knocked down nine three-pointers on the night.

“They switched to a five-guard look and we struggled at times matching up with them,” said Hogan.

Bellefontaine led by a point (35-34) at halftime, and stayed in front until a Cougars’ three-pointer with 56 seconds left in the third quarter put the visitors up 51-50.

The teams were deadlocked at 54-54 entering the fourth quarter.

Kenton Ridge started fast in the final stanza, surging to an eight-point cushion (64-56) with six minutes left.

But Bellefontaine stormed back, using a 7-0 run to close within a point at 64-63 at the 4:32 mark.

The Cougars answered with five straight points before Bellefontaine scored five in a row to again make it a one-point game (69-68) with just under three minutes remaining.

A bucket by each team left the Cougars ahead by one point under the two-minute mark. The Cougars stretched their lead to three on two free throws with 33.7 seconds remaining.

A layup by Brenda Johnson cut the Kenton Ridge advantage back to a point with 27 ticks left on the clock.

Kenton Ridge’s Sydney Bates and Stefanie Davis each made one of two free throws to put Kenton Ridge back up by three as the clock dipped below 10 seconds.

Bellefontaine called a timeout with 7.6 seconds remaining to set up the final shot. The Chiefs got a good look from Johnson behind the three-point line in the corner, but it did not fall as the buzzer sounded.

Bellefontaine had an impressive five players in double figures. Jazmyn Haley led the way with 14 points, Regan Price had 12, Johnson tallied 11 points and Sajah Carter and Kameren Haley had 10 apiece.

Whitney Rader chipped in with seven points.

Paige McCrary led Kenton Ridge with 20 points and Davis had 17 points.

In the junior varsity game, Kenton Ridge won 44-39. Ashley Artis led the Chiefs with 14 points.

Bellefontaine is back in action tonight at Kenton.

KENTON RIDGE 75, BEN LOGAN 72

KENTON RIDGE (4-1, 1-1)

Thornton 3 2-2 8; Wilson 3 0-0 6; Bates 3 3-4 10; Bennett 5 0-0 14; McCrary 8 1-2 20; Davis 7 2-4 17. Totals: 29 8-12 75.

BELLEFONTAINE (4-2, 1-1)

Brunswick 2 0-0 4; Hunt 2 0-0 4; Carter 2 4-6 10; Price 6 0-0 12; K. Haley 5 0-2 10; Johnson 5 1-1 11; J. Haley 5 4-5 14; Rader 3 1-4 7. Totals: 30 10-18 72.

Cougars    14    20    20    19  — 75

Chiefs    21    14    19    18    —    72

Three pointers: Kenton Ridge 9 (Bennett 4, McCrary 3, Bates, Davis); Bellefontaine 2 (Carter 2). Turnovers: Kenton Ridge 6; Bellefontaine 9. Team fouls: Kenton Ridge 14; Bellefontaine 14.

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