By David Wheeler
Special to the Journal
BALDWYN – Trailing by nine points with three starters on the bench might have been a good thing for the Baldwyn Lady Bearcats.
Alternating players got fresh legs on the court for defense for the Lady Brarcats, who got two free throws from Keontra Tyes with 4 seconds remaining to edge the Belmont Lady Cardinals 54-52.
“We stressed fight to the end and positive energy,” Lady Bearcats head coach Reenetra Pippin said. “We had three starters on the bench with four fouls, but we were able to substitute, and we were able to get some full court pressure.”
A solid third quarter by the youthful Lady Cardinals allowed them to come back and take a 38-35 lead. Belmont (2-4) extended its advantage to 46-37 with 4:25 to play on a Claire Morgan basket.
Then two quick field goals by LaJayla Turnage sparked a 6-0 run and helped pull Baldwyn (5-1) within 46-43. Play was hectic and Baldwyn took a 51-50 lead on a free throw by Tyes. Katelyn Nunnley responded with a pair of free shots with 23 seconds left for Belmont.
Timaya Stewart pulled Baldwyn even with 16 seconds left before Tyes’ game-winning shots.
“The biggest thing was our turnovers and transition defense,” Belmont head coach Chris Higgingbottom said. “We’ve got to get better after this game.”
Stewart led the Baldwyn offense with 17 points, while Nunnley pacing Belmont with 19.
(B) Baldwyn 76, Belmont 52: With Felix Harris and Martel Brown combining for 18 points, the Bearcats powered to a 24-7 lead by the end of the first quarter. Baldwyn (6-1) went on to lead 40-21 at the half.
Brown led four Baldwyn players in double figures with 19 for the defending Class 2A state champions. Harrison Fancher tallied 25 for Belmont (4-4).
“We did a good job playing with energy and focus tonight,” Bearcats head coach Jason McKay said. “We’re not the same team as last year, but that doesn’t mean we can’t win the last game of the season.”