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KINGSLAND— The hosting Norwell Knights and Columbia City Eagles advanced with victories on Tuesday night in the opening round of sectional play.
After Norwell dominated the opener against Heritage, 79-43, the Eagles shot 18-32 (56%) from the field to efficiently end the Bellmont Braves' season in a 52-27 rout.
The Eagles had beaten the Braves on their home floor earlier this season by a 39-38 margin in one of the better games played by Bellmont. Things turned out very different the second time around, however.
The game still hung very much in the open for either team heading into the half despite Bellmont's struggles from the field. Seth King hit a three-pointer just before the break to make it 22-16 after two quarters.
"It gave us momentum heading into the halftime," praised coach John Baker of King's bucket. "We wanted to build off of that for the second half."
King's triple ended a four-minute cold spell for the Braves who allowed Columbia City a 15-7 lead after the first quarter but then only seven points in the second quarter.
Jake Hall had all seven of the Braves' points in the first eight minutes of play as Bellmont actually led 7-4 in the early stages of the game. The Eagles would end the frame on an 11-0 run.
The Eagles were 7-15 from the floor in the first half, while the Braves were 6-16. The telling stat came from the Eagles connecting on 4-9 from deep including a pair from Mason Coverstone who ended with four triples and 12 points.
While the 16 points was not a stellar offensive performance, the Braves managed to keep the Eagles subdued as well limiting their 6'5" leading scorer Brachen Hazen with just six points in the first half, none in the second quarter. In the third quarter, Columbia City squashed any chance of a Bellmont comeback outscoring the Braves 14-4 shutting down the Braves defensively and scoring efficiently led by Justin Bachelder who had 10 of his game-high 21 in the third.
"You focus on Coverstone and you focus on Hazen but then it's Bachelder who really stepped up for them tonight and scored well for them," analyzed Baker.
The Braves did themselves no favors in the second half shooting a chilly 4-24 (16%) in the final 16 minutes. By contrast, the Eagles turned up their offense to the tune of 11-17 (64%) including five more three-pointers making them 9-17 overall from deep (53%).
"The first half and even in the second I felt like we had some clean looks on offense that just didn't go. When they hit shots on the other end in the second half after we came up empty it just became deflating for the guys."
Baker's squad has struggled with turnovers all season long but surprisingly, the Eagles only forced 10 miscues from the Braves all game, while actually committing 12 themselves.