BELLEFONTAINE – West Liberty-Salem and Bellefontaine fought tooth and nail on Thursday, but the Tigers pulled away late and came out ahead, 53-39, in non-conference girls basketball.
The Tigers opened up an early lead behind 8 points in the first quarter by Lily Yoder, but Yoder wasn’t very involved again until after halftime.
The Chieftains took advantage, chipping away at the WL-S lead as the Tigers began to struggle a bit on offense. Hannah Rader poured in bucket after bucket from inside for Bellefontaine, finishing the first half with 14 points.
Still, WL-S led 29-23 at halftime.
“We went through a couple of stretches where we didn’t shoot the ball very well, but our defense held up,” WL-S Coach Dennis McIntosh said. “I thought we got a little lackadaisical on offense. We don’t have a big post person to throw the ball to, but we still have to get the ball in the paint.”
The Tigers went back to an attacking, swarming defense after the break and did not allow the Chiefs within four points the rest of the way.
“In the second half, I thought we played as well defensively as we have most of the season. We weren’t letting them have easy shots,” McIntosh said. “We finally got to switching the picks and denying their passes and forcing some steals.”
Indeed, the visitors forced a few turnovers and made Bellefontaine pay in transition. Along the way, Yoder found the stroke from long distance, hitting a pair of three-pointers along with a mid-range jumper, and WL-S roared to a 43-29 lead with three quarters gone by.
The Tigers (12-1) continued to clamp down just enough to frustrate Bellefontaine in the fourth, cruising to victory. Yoder led the way with 16 points, doing damage in spurts in both the first and third quarters.
“That’s the way she is a lot of times. She’ll score eight or 10 points in two or three minutes, then she’ll lull people to sleep a little bit and it’s back on again,” McIntosh said.
Paige Shafer added 10 points for the Tigers, with Kelsey Day and Gabby Hollar adding 8 and Mikalia McIntosh adding 7. Taylor Lauck and Laine Godwin contributed superb defense at the top of the formation.
“All seven of them are going to play hard when they’re out there. They all give us something positive when they’re on the floor,” McIntosh said.
In the jayvee game, WL-S won, 26-4. Mya King had 8 points and Rylie Brown had 7 in that contest.
West Liberty-Salem goes on the road at Indian Lake on Monday. Only one game will be played, with tip-off scheduled for 6:30 p.m.
Reach Justin Miller at 652-1331 (ext. 1776) or on Twitter @UDC_Miller.