BY DENNIS CHASE firstname.lastname@example.org
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — BELLAIRE — Bellaire decided to play “helter skelter” Friday night.
The unbeaten Eagles forced Central Lake into repeated turnovers with a pressing defense that sparked the state’s No. 5 team in Class D to 73-34 win in the district final here.
“We put this press in a little late (in season) because we feel we’re going to need it somewhere along the line,” Bellaire coach Stan Sexton said. “We call it ‘helter skelter’ because we’re all over the floor. You have to give credit to (assistant) Mike Meriwether for that press. He’s our secretary of defense. That’s his press. He’s worked hard with the kids on it and they’ve responded. It paid dividends for us tonight.”
The Eagles turned a number of those Trojan miscues into points in taking a 20-8 lead after the first quarter, and a 39-16 cushion after two.
“I didn’t think we would have that much of a problem with it (press),” Central Lake coach Rob Shooks said. “Turns out, we did.
“They’re fast, they’re long. That really killed us. (Mitch) Teetzel is 6-5, but his wingspan is 6-8 or 6-9. Drew Bailey is the same. Denny Hall is a great athlete. He’s quick, long, fast. Bellaire’s a good team. They’ll have a good chance in the regional.”
The Eagles (22-0) spread the wealth offensively with four players reaching double figures. Tyler Thornton led the attack with 19 points, hitting four 3-pointers. Teetzel added 15 and Hall and James Schrader 11.
Thornton got off to a quick start, hitting his first two 3-point attempts.
“If I knock down my first shot or two, I normally get into a groove,” Thornton said. “I feel it.”
Shooks was afraid of that.
“We tried face-guarding Tyler, face-guarding Denny Hall because they killed us the past couple times we’ve played,” he said. “What did Tyler hit tonight, four 3-pointers? When he’s hitting like that it really gets them going.”
Teetzel did most of his damage inside, although he showed a soft touch from the outside as well.
The Eagles came into the game overwhelming favorites and they didn’t ease up.
“There’s a little bit of pressure there just in the fact that you can’t lose now because you’re in the playoffs,” Teetzel said. “But our record doesn’t mean anything now. We’re still going to keep playing hard.”
And that’s what Sexton expects.
“They enjoy the game and they play hard,” he said. “That’s what you have to do.”
Bellaire reached the quarterfinals a year ago.
The goal this season?
“Go to states,” Teetzel said.
In building a 23-point lead at half, Bellaire had four players with eight or more points. Schrader provided a lift off the bench. He scored nine points in the second quarter.
Bellaire will play Suttons Bay in the nightcap of Monday’s regional at Central. The Eagles beat the Norsemen earlier in the season.