TIGHT BATTLE: Raiders hang tough with 18-3 Central, lose 32-26 battle to Dragons

Freshman guard Maddie Tice (13) of Bellefonte High School drives into the lane against Central High School during high school girl’s basketball action on Tuesday, February 6, 2018 in Bellefonte. The Lady Red Raiders lost, 32-26. (The Express/Tim Weight)

Freshman guard Maddie Tice (13) of Bellefonte High School drives into the lane against Central High School during high school girl’s basketball action on Tuesday, February 6, 2018 in Bellefonte. The Lady Red Raiders lost, 32-26. (The Express/Tim Weight)

BELLEFONTE — Bellefonte High School put up a valiant effort against Central and posted one of its best defensive performances of the season. Although they suffered a 32-26 loss to the Dragons, they remained competitive with Central (18-3) for the entirety of the game, which is a step forward in the right direction for the young Raiders squad who has just one senior on its roster.

“The girls played together,” Bellefonte coach Adam Gearhart said after the game. “When we play four quarters, we’re a good team.”

Freshman Maddie Tice recorded a team-high 10 points. Gearhart has noticed improvements in her game since the season began.

“From the first game until now, her play has improved quite a bit,” Gearhart said of Tice. “And her confidence has grown quite a bit.”

Maddie Steiner added another six points. She was one of five players who recorded figures for Bellefonte.

“I had confidence in any girl I put on the floor tonight,” Gearhart said. “And they paid it back with their effort tonight. I think they all did a good job.”

Central jumped to an early lead before a Maddie Steiner layup and foul-shot conversion had Bellefonte down just 4-3. The Raiders took the lead after Maddie Tice knocked down a three to give the Raiders a 6-4 edge. Bellefonte eventually widened its lead 10-6 after Abbey Bruni’s bounce pass to Maddie Tice under the basket for the score to extend the Raiders’ lead, 10-6, entering the second quarter.

Bellefonte struggled to generate offense in the second period and was outscored by Central, 11-3, to head into halftime trailing, 17-13.

After falling behind 19-13 in the third, Bruni drilled a three pointer to cut Bellefonte’s deficit, 19-16. The deep ball kept the game competitive. Mallorie Smith drilled a three pointer with 30 seconds left in the period to cut the Raiders’ deficit, 26-19.

Smith’s triple was her lone score of the game, but she was very active on defense.

“Mallorie did what we needed her to do on defense,” Gearhart explained of Smith. “She pushed Central wide and she fought over screens.”

Central denied Bellefonte’s late-rally attempt in the fourth. After Mia Johnson recorded back-to-back free throws and Maddie Tice added another to cut Central’s lead 32-26, the Dragons cautiously dribbled the ball around for the final 1 1/2 minutes of the game. They never attempted a shot to seal the win on the road.

Bellefonte coach Adam Gearhart remained optimistic after the loss. After battling through growing pains, the Raiders clicked in recent games against top opponents Tyrone and Central. The defense surrendered just 32 points to Central, which was the Dragons’ third-lowest total of the year.

“Things are starting to come together,” Gearhart said. “We’ve played two- back-to-back games against quality opponents really well.”

“This team is starting to show that they can play with the best teams,” he added,

TEAM SCORING

CT 6 11 9 6 – 32

BF 10 3 6 7 – 26

INDIVIDUAL SCORING

Bellefonte: Maddie Tice- 10 points, Maddie Steiner- 6 points, Abbey Bruni- 5 points, Mallorie Smith- 3 points, Mia Johnson- 2 points.

Central: Cassie Mock- 12 points, Erin Brumbaugh- 6 points, Maddi Metzler- 6 points, Jenna Mock- 4 points, Madison Eicher- 2 points, Kylie Metzger- 2 points.

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