By John Bombatch
MASON — A big dose of defensive pressure, solid ball handling from the Golden Eagles guards, and a typical 20-point outing from Gabby Ozoude earned Bellbrook the Division II district championship with a 61-43 win over Springfield Kenton Ridge.
The two teams traded the lead eight times in the first six minutes of Friday night’s contest at Mason High School, but Bellbrook took the lead for good, 15-14, on Stephanie Dorn’s 3-pointer from the right side with just under two minutes left to play in the opening quarter.
A Cassidy Hofacker steal and transition layup, a foul shot by Bekah Vine, another Dorn three, and a steal and a score by Gabby Boyer gave the Golden Eagles an 11-0 scoring run to close out the first quarter, and more importantly, a 23-17 lead after eight minutes of play.
“We got transition points, I think that was a key. We knew our guards were good. We thought that would be a strength for us, so we went in and tried to make sure we had great pressure, made sure their eyes were down, made sure they were dribbling. And then we were able to trap out of our defense, because if they got the ball into their bigs — Mikayla Morris and Jamari McDavid — they’re not bad,” Bellbrook coach Jason Tincher said. “We know they’re two really nice post players for them. And we can counter that, but their strength was getting the ball inside to them.
“We wanted to take away their guard play and get some nice looks the other way in transition.
Kenton Ridge (19-7) pulled to within five points when McDavid scored a lay-in off a Morris steal, with five minutes left to play in the first half. That made it 25-21 Bellbrook, but that’s as close as the Cougars would get the rest of the way.
Bellbrook led by nine at the half, extended that margin to 16 points at the end of the third, and the team was never threatened again.
Ozoude finished with 20 points to lead undefeated Bellbrook (26-0). Vine scored 17 points, Cassidy Bereda added 11 points and Dorn was the other Eagle in double-figure scoring with 10.
“We played four tournament games without our second leading scorer, who quit the team after the regular season. So for us to get this far, I thought that was pretty good,” said Kenton Ridge coach Ed Foulk. “And the kids played hard. Tonight I think the kids got intimidated by the big girl (Ozoude). Our other post (Morris) was averaging about 16-17 points a game, and she was held to six tonight. So she found out what it was like to go against a big girl.”
Ridge’s McDavid led all scorers with 23 points. She reportedly surpassed the 1,000-point mark in her career earlier this season as a junior. The only senior the Cougars will lose is Sydney Bates.
The district title is Bellbrook’s first since the 2011-‘12 season. The Golden Eagles went to the state tournament that year.
Up next for Bellbrook is defending Division II state champion Kettering Alter. Tincher said his team will relish the underdog role against the champs.
“It’s a game that our community was probably hoping would happen,” he said. “We’re 26-0. Things don’t really change the way we prepare. We’re third in the state, AP and all that, and we’ve handled all that with great maturity. So I think when we prepare in the next couple days, we won’t expect anything else.
“… That’s what I like about this team: Throw any jersey on you, we’re gonna give you what we have.”
Top-seeded Alter and second-seeded Bellbrook will square off in a regional semifinal game at 8 p. m. Tuesday March 1 at Springfield High School.
John Bombatch can be reached at (937) 372-4444, Ext. 2123.