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PREP GIRLS BASKETBALL: Aggies pull off upset over Irish

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It was a statement game and a rivalry game all rolled into one for the Beal City girls basketball team Thursday night.

Hosting undefeated Sacred Heart in another edition of the storied rivalry, the Aggies pulled off a major upset by holding off late Irish rally and claiming a 49-48 win.

“The girls remembered the district game last year when Sacred Heart got us and they were really excited to play tonight,” said Beal City head coach Chadd Fletcher. “We had a huge second quarter by scoring 19 points, but Sacred Heart is a good team and we knew that they’d make a comeback. I thought Jordan Schneider had an excellent game and she really controlled the glass, and I think Addie Schumacher had a great game. Our seniors stepped up tonight and made some big shots towards the end to close it out.”

Much of Beal City’s roster is still in transition mode from the volleyball season as eight of Fletcher’s 10 players were members of the Class C state runner-up team. With limited time in the gym to begin the season, the Aggies dropped their first three contests to Morley-Stanwood, Pewamo-Westphalia and McBain, but have since begun to put it together on the court.

“We’re still making the transition. We made some steps forward against McBain Northern Michigan Christian in the last game, and the girls finally came out and put together a solid four quarters tonight,” Fletcher said. “This was a big win for us going into break and it’s something that we can build on. It was a tough transition at first, however, the girls are true competitors and they’re working hard each day in practice. We set a goal to get better each day and hopefully over time those things will build up. We’ve really kept the mindset that we want to be playing our best basketball at the end of the year, not in December.”

The Aggies held a lead after every quarter Wednesday night and held a comfortable 48-39 edge with 1:45 left in the fourth quarter before a furious comeback by the Irish. Sara Hansen drained a 3-pointer and got fouled in the process with 55 seconds remaining to cut the deficit to four at 48-44, but would miss the free throw.

Despite the missed opportunity at the charity stripe, SHA found itself down just 49-46 with 24 seconds remaining, but could only manage an inside jumper by Riley Terwilliger just before the buzzer.

The big key for the Aggies (3-3) was to control the post and limit Sacred Heart’s Averi Gamble. The sophomore, who has been averaging nearly a double-double a game this season, was limited to just four points in the loss.

“We really challenged our post players in practice and before the game, and we thought that if we could challenge the glass, that we had a really good shot at winning this game,” Fletcher said. “Jordan did a great job tonight defensively and I’m very proud of her.”

The challenge from Schneider and Schumacher was the first test of the season at the post for the Irish.

“We talked about the post in the pregame and at halftime. This was the first time all season where we matched up with another team in terms of our post players, and in all honesty, I think Jordan and Addie played a great game tonight. They worked on us from the inside and that shows that we’ve got work to do,” said Sacred Heart head coach Damon Brown. “Lexie (Methner) and Averi need to step their game up in order to meet that intensity, so it was a great learning experience from that standpoint.”

Beal City got off to a 6-0 start Wednesday before a Bainy Scully jumper with 2:30 remaining the first quarter ignited a 7-0 run by the Irish (5-1). A basket by Melanie Schafer with 17 seconds put the Aggies up 8-7 as they entered the second quarter.

SHA would tie the game up for the final time in the second quarter at 13-13 on a layup by Hansen, but would watch as Beal City ended the first half on 14-5 run to claim a 27-18 edge at halftime.

“That was probably our worst first half that we’ve had all season. We just didn’t execute the way we needed offensively and we were just a step slow defensively, where we’re normally a step on,” Brown said. “This was a great learning experience for the girls, but we’ll get back at it tomorrow.”

Schneider posted a double-double for the Aggies, tallying 13 points and 14 rebounds, while Schafer chipped in with 13 points, four steals and three assists. Schumacher also registered 10 points, six boards and four steals.

It was another career night for SHA’s Hansen, who tied her career best with 30 points, a mark she set in a win over Big Rapids Crossroads back on Dec. 10.

“She had a great game tonight and she’s such a good player. Sara kept us in the game, but I think we as a team need to make sure that we’re able to play up there with her. I think that at times we weren’t consistent enough with that, and part of that too is because we are still young,” Brown said. “I think our youth showed tonight, but you live and learn and move on.”

Beal City is now off until Jan. 3 when it hosts Montabella in non-conference action, while Sacred Heart returns to the hardwood Friday at Coleman.

Last Updated: 12/18/2013 10:49:12 PM EST