Garaway Girls Basketball

Lady P’s ‘took away everything Bellaire wanted to do’ in 55-28 district win

Maddie Steiner

Dismantling a good team that is on a roll is tough to do. The Garaway Lady Pirates found out that the best way to do it is to go out and do what you do best.

In this big game Garaway used its experience, its relentless defense and a well-balanced attack to carve out a big win over a young Bellaire team that worried Garaway’s coaching staff a lot. This was a Bellaire team that came in flying high, having beaten a very talented Tusky Valley team to capture a sectional title one game earlier. This was a Bellaire team that had fashioned 21 wins in a second straight 20-win season. This was a Big Reds team that had scored points in bunches, a lot of points, all season long.

But this was a Garaway defense the likes of which the Big Reds had not experienced, and the Lady Pirates came out and played an incredibly consistent game that showed very few flaws, and that big-time defense it has become known for showed up and put on a performance in the Lady P’s convincing 55-28 victory.

“Coach Shutt does an outstanding job, and those girls get after it, and you have to be able to match their energy,” said John Farrier, Big Reds head coach. “I didn’t feel we matched their energy. If we had matched their energy, we might have been able to make a game of it, but we didn’t.”

Farrier, whose team won its first sectional title in two decades, said one of the biggest factors was that Garaway has been a consistent participant in the district tournament over the past 20 years while it was very new to his team. He felt that the moment may have gotten the better of his young team.

“They’re a great team,” Farrier said of Garaway. “But they have been on this stage before, and we haven’t. I felt that if we came out and scored some buckets and hung with them the first six minutes, I think our girls would have played with a little more confidence.”

It didn’t play out that way, and Garaway’s defense was at the core of that happening.

“I have a lot of respect for them. They are a really good team, but we were just better tonight,” Garaway head coach Dave Shutt said.

An early steal and assist to Haley Shutt and a Sydney Mullet 3-pointer put Garaway up 5-0. Maci Crozier scored twice to get the Big Reds to within 6-4, but a Zoe Johnson layup off an assist from Kallie Regula and a Regula triple pushed the lead back to 11-4. Later in the first quarter, scores from Shutt and Mullet pushed the lead to nine, and after Michaela Flaherty scored inside for Bellaire, Ashton Gerber scored. Then with 1.7 to play in the quarter, Haley Shutt was fouled going to the hoop. She missed both free throws, but Maddie Steiner astutely stepped inside, grabbed the rebound off the second miss and stuck it back in as time expired for a 19-8 Garaway lead.

“They are a very good team, and we knew we had to hit them right off the bat and build a lead to put pressure on them,” Mullet said. “I thought we did a good job of stopping everything they were trying to do, and our defense really pressured them into some things that helped us.”

Quick scores from Cierra Davis and Crozier ignited some fire in Bellaire, but a seven-point deficit was doubled quickly when Mullet scored on a long trey, Johnson hit from inside and Mullet scored an easy hoop on a gorgeous feed from Chelsi Rothacher.

After Mullet and Crozier traded 3-pointers later in the quarter, Johnson scored inside and then dropped in a buzzer-beating jumper to give the Lady P’s a 35-17 bulge at the half.

The third quarter would be the key for both teams. If Bellaire could get rolling, it could get back in the game. If Garaway flexed its muscles, it could put this one in the bag. Garaway flexed, and it flexed hard.

First, it held Bellaire to just five points. Second, Haley Shutt ignited a 13-3 run that left little doubt as to who the victor would be, scoring six points in the run.

“I thought our defensive effort was really outstanding,” coach Shutt said. “We saw them a couple of times, and we tried to take away some of the things they do well, and we were able to do that against a very dangerous team. I spent some sleepless nights trying to figure out what we were going to have to do to defend this team, and in the end I thought our defensive effort was a combination by committee, and that was where we won the game.”

“They took away all of our strengths,” Farrier said of the Lady Pirates’ defense. “Our strengths are their strengths, and their strengths won us over tonight. This isn’t how we wanted to go out, but I’m proud of our girls. We had a tremendous season.”

Coach Shutt was proud of the way his team took a very work-like approach to shutting down a talented but young Big Red team. He also was excited about his team’s spread-out scoring effort. Mullet finished with 18, Johnson came off the bench to add 11, Haley Shutt scored nine and Steiner added eight in the victory.

“It was a good team win for us,” coach Shutt said.

Garaway also took several opportunities to score some easy buckets by making three passes over the top of the Big Reds after Bellaire had scored. The resulting buckets were back-breakers for Bellaire, who was working so hard to gain ground only to see the Lady P’s score easy buckets on the other side.

“We thought we could get some quick scores by going over the top of them with quick, diagonal passes,” coach Shutt said. “We felt we could wear them down a little bit because they aren’t real deep, but that is a good team that is going to get even better next year.”

But on this night, Garaway’s energy, team play and experience were more than enough to overcome the up-and-coming Big Reds.

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