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Bellefonte girls stumble at Magic Dome

By CHRIS MASSE

cmasse@sungazette.com

Kailee Helmrich gave the illusion that Bellefonte players were open, luring in the ball-handlers. She then pounced, sprinting forward and making steals.

Atiya Jones provided blanket coverage, shadowing Raiders wherever they moved, whether handling the ball or not. The approaches Helmrich and Jones used were different, but they produced similar results Thursday night.

Helmrich and Jones combined for 11 steals and ignited a swarming defense that made life miserable for Bellefonte all night. Defense became offense as Jessica Robinson recorded a double-double, Sophia Erb nearly added another and Williamsport thumped visiting Bellefonte, 59-41. Williamsport (3-5) snapped a three-game losing streak, forced 28 of Bellefonte’s 30 turnovers over the first three quarters and led by as many as 26 while putting together its most complete performance this season.

“We played really well. As soon as they picked up the ball we were on top of them,” Helmrich said. “We communicated really well which helped us on defense and that led to us scoring.”

“I try to provide defense and try to help pick my teammates up,” Jones said. “I try to help them keep going forward and make sure they never give up.”

Williamsport never gave up or let up last night, taking the game over in the second quarter and dominating from there. Bellefonte led by three early in the second quarter, but Williamsport closed the half on a 17-2 run, then scored the second-half’s first eight points to open a 20-point advantage. The Millionaires played outstanding defense, but Helmrich and Jones especially stood out.

Helmrich, a sophomore point guard, ended the first half with her fifth steal and finished with six. She filled passing lanes and harassed guards, also scoring eight points and dealing four assists. Jones provided a major jolt off the bench, making five steals, scoring nine points and grabbing eight rebounds. Jones was all over Bellefonte guards, wreaking havoc and making just bringing the ball upcourt difficult. Erb and Samiyah Little added three steals each and starting guards Enya Green-Pratt and Sarina Beiter added two each, all playing a pivotal role in Bellefonte losing 20 first-half turnovers.

“We played well as a team. We moved really well,” Jones said. “You have to stay focused on defense and really lock down your player and try to motivate your team.”

“If we can impose our will on a team that helps us more because offensively, we’re not the most fluid yet. We’re trying to get there, but we’re not there yet,” Williamsport coach Terrill Seward-Buxton said. “We’re getting back to the intensity so they can realize what got us to the district championship last year. What is going to get us back there, hopefully, is the defense and the overall effort and we had players diving all over the court tonight.”

Williamsport had the effort, the defense, the depth and the balance. This game could provide a turning point for one of the district’s deepest teams, highlighting what makes it dangerous moving forward. Seward-Buxton went 10-deep last night and basically utilized two starting lineups because there was never any drop off when he went to his bench.

Different players took turns fueling the offense and Williamsport scored 50 points over the final three quarters. Robinson and Erb were tough inside and Robinson produced career-highs in points (15) and rebounds (13). Erb (12 points) was a catalyst during the second-quarter when she pulled down four offensive rebounds in less than three minutes as the Millionaires started taking over. She was one of five players finishing with at least four rebound and helped Williamsport outrebound Bellefonte,48-21.

“Everything did start to click. I think we’re starting to play better as a team. We’re all starting to get along and that’s really helping us and that leads to scoring,” Helmrich said. “Everybody that plays can score. It’s nice knowing that you can pass it to whoever you want and they that they are a reliable source to put the ball in the basket.”

It was just the kind of performance needed following three straight losses. Williamsport started slow last night and was down 6-0 midway through the first quarter. The Millionaires, however, were showing encouraging signs early. They were forcing turnovers, 12 by quarter’s end, and producing good shots. They just were not making them.

Instead of coming unglued, Williamsport kept attacking and the offense came. The Millionaires led 9-8 after a quarter and Robinson’s putback put it up to stay, 15-14 midway through the quarter. That triggered a 25-2 run that bridged the middle quarters and Green-Pratt drained a 3-pointer during that time as both the inside and perimeter games complemented each other.

Bellefonte cut a 21-point deficit to 16 late in the third quarter, but that momentum was short-lived. Robinson scored following a strong post move, Robinson scored on a layup and Helmrich hit a jumper as the Millionaires blew the game open and took a 45-23 lead into the fourth quarter. It was another positive development and provides a good step forward.

“For the most part, in most games we do play a good team game, but sometimes we get caught in the moment and sometimes we can’t get out of the moment,” Seward-Buxton said. “The last couple games we weren’t playing our best and hopefully the way we played here can carry over.”

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