CENTRAL LAKE — The sting of not winning a Ski Valley Conference championship was lessened a bit for the Bellaire girls basketball team on Friday.
The Eagles were able to make amends for coming up short in the league standings when they won a Class D district crown with a 44-32 victory over Ski Valley champ Gaylord St. Mary.
Behind a 20-point performance from senior guard Madalyn Balon, Bellaire beat the Snowbirds for the second consecutive time in three meetings this season.
“It feels amazing. We worked so hard this season. Just to come through and get this win, it’s awesome,” said Balon. “(St. Mary) is the best competition in the league. To come out and beat them, it felt awesome.”
Balon scored 14 straight points for the Eagles (19-3) between the first and third quarters — accounting for all seven of her team’s total in the second quarter — until some of her teammates got involved in the second half and lifted them to a comfortable lead.
“Madalyn is a gamer,” said Bellaire coach Brad Fischer. “That is a girl — the first one on the floor, the first one back on defense. She’s a game-changer.”
Indeed, Balon was on the mark when the Eagles needed her spark on offense, draining threes, attacking the basket on drives to the hoop and in transition, and even connecting on a pair from the free throw line.
“I was feeling it,” said Balon. “But it was a team effort. They just kept feeding me and they went in, but I couldn’t do it without my teammates.”
With Balon leading the way, Bellaire held a slim 17-16 halftime lead. She added back-to-back buckets that drew fouls to start the third quarter and pushed the margin to five. Bellaire created some breathing room in the margin when it began getting high-percentage shots in the paint. The Eagles led 28-25 heading into the fourth quarter and made it a nine-point game within the first two minutes of the fourth.