By JOE SPAULDING
for The Post and Mail
DECATUR — One observer at the press table Friday night at the Bellmont gym wryly noted, “the first team to 30 will win.”
That prediction came true as Columbia City held on to win a 35-29 girls varsity decision over Bellmont in Northeast Hoosier Conference action by shutting down the Bellmont inside game with what Eagle coach Amy Shearer called “good pressure and a good defensive effort.”
Bellmont led throughout the entire first half with the exception of an 11-11 tie and it wasn’t until Samara Qureshi hit a bucket with 6:12 to go in the third period that the lead tilted in CC’s favor at 16-14.
The Eagle pressure early in the third stanza was evident as Bellmont coach Andy Heim had to call two early timeouts when Bellmont had trouble getting the ball past the midcourt line.
The Squaws went on a 5-0 run with Mikala Quinn hitting a traditional 3-point play and Payton Schultz cashed in two charity tosses and Bellmont went back in the lead at 19-16.
Qureshi took matters in her hands hitting two baskets and two free throws in the last 3:45 of the period to put Columbia City up 23-22 at the end of the quarter.
The Eagles never relinquished the lead in the final eight minutes. After getting up by five at 29-24, Columbia City allowed Bellmont back to within two on two occasions but the Squaws couldn’t score in the final 2:10 of play, a time span that saw Sarah Opliger knock down four straight free throws.
Shearer admitted the contest wasn’t pretty but that “it’s a conference win, it’s on the road, and we’ll take it.” She said the team examined at halftime what Bellmont was doing defensively “and we stepped up with some big shots in the second half. Samara was strong and then in the fourth period both Lacey (Jahn) and Sarah hit four straight from the line. It wasn’t like we shot the ball well from the line but we hit some when we needed them.”
Bellmont’s offense was severely hurt midway through the first period when senior point guard Allison Gutierrez went down with an ankle injury and did not return. Quinn, the other starting BHS guard, stood her ground at one point and took a charge from 6’2 center Emily Whiteleather. While she stayed in the game, she was just 1-8 from the field and became ill after the game.
Heim said Gutierrez’s ankle started to swell but she should be okay by next week. He also noted that Quinn did not suffer “any concussion-like” symptoms and should also be ready to play in the next BHS contest.
“Losing Allison is a huge part of our offense. She and Mikala seldom come out of a game and that was a tall order to have some of our inexperienced kids having to come in and handle the ball. We talked at halftime about getting the ball inside because our post players were working hard but had trouble doing that in the second half with our inexperienced ball handlers,” he noted.
Bellmont’s Schultz had a big night on the boards with a season-high 17 rebounds, including 11 on the offensive end, but the Eagles held her to seven points in the game. Qureshi was the only player to hit double figures on offense with 12, 10 of those coming in the second half. Taylor Kuhnle was the leading BHS producer with nine points.
Columbia City improved to 6-10 on the season and 2-2 in NHC action while Bellmont dropped to 2-12 and 1-3 respectively. The Eagles host Wawasee on Tuesday night while the Squaws are back in action at the Teepee next Thursday against winless North Side.
In the prelim games, the Squaws and Eagles split a pair with the CC reserves earning a 33-29 decision and the freshman tilt went to Bellmont 24-9.
Sarah Wise led the Eagles with 10 in the JV game as the Eagles came back from being down 19-10 at one point in the second period. Both Alyssa Hansen and Bailie Dillingham added seven while Amanda Hunter and Audrey Schultz tallied nine and seven respectively for Bellmont.
Janaya Wilder scored nine for the BHS frosh in an easy victory while Bailey Christlieb had seven.