Traverse City Record-Eagle

January 24, 2014

Bellaire cruises in Ski Valley showdown

BY DENNIS CHASE dchase@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — BELLAIRE — Bellaire picked an opportune time to play it best basketball game of the season.

The Eagles opened a double-digit lead in the first quarter Thursday night and then pulled away to a 66-34 win over Onaway in a battle of Ski Valley Conference unbeatens.

“We’re in good shape right now,” said Bellaire coach Stan Sexton, whose Eagles are 9-0 overall and 6-0 in the league. “But there’s a lot of season left.”

Bellaire put four players in double figures. Hunter Walsh, a 5-11 center, led the charge with 14 points. Hunter Rowe and James Schrader added 11 points apiece and Denny Hall, the team catalyst, 10. Guard Adam Underwood contributed eight points.

“We just don’t depend on one or two guys,” Hall said. “We all had a good night.”

So good that the showdown offered little suspense.

“That the best we’ve played so far,”Underwood said. “But we’ve got room to improve.”

Try telling that to Onaway.

The Eagles continually broke down the Onaway (7-2, 5-1) defense with penetration, creating baskets in the lane.

“We emphasized dribble-drive the gaps of that 1-3-1 zone,” Sexton said. “The guys were moving along the baseline and we got some nice looks there. We got inside with the basketball.”

Rowe scored all 11 of his points in the first half as Bellaire took a 29-16 lead into the locker room. The Eagles played the entire second quarter without Hall, who had picked two fouls in the first quarter.

Walsh tallied 10 points and Schrader nine in the second half as the lead grew.

“We’ve got a great group of kids,” Sexton said. “They’re bright, they’re intelligent, and they’re not afraid of hard work. There’s some talent there.”

On the defensive end, the Eagles held Onaway’s high-scoring guard Joe O’Bradovich to nine points. O’Bradovich also battled foul trouble throughout the night.

The Eagles prepped for the challenge by having two players take turns portraying O’Bradovich in practice.

Bellaire was coming off an offensively-challenged win over Pellston — a game the Eagles led 16-8 at half.

“When we have an off night we usually follow it up with a good night,” Hall said. “Our defense was good at Pellston. I knew we could bring our offense together.”

They did — with contributions by all.

“Like Denny said, we don’t rely on one guy,” Underwood said. “We have a lot of shooters. We’re a little undersized, but Walsh is the strongest kid on our team. He can move bodies down there.”

And even though the offense was clicking, Sexton did not expect a blowout.

“I thought it would be a much closer game,” Sexton said. “But we have to go up there in February.”