WILLIAMSTOWN - In last year's two matchups between the Belpre Lady Golden Eagles and the Wood County Christian Lady Wildcats, offense was at a premium as the two teams combined for a grand total of 134 points in the two games.
What a difference a year can make as the two teams matched that two game total in the season opener for both with the visiting Lady Eagles outscoring the Lady 'Cats 71-63 Tuesday evening.
Belpre connected on nine three-point shots in the game and also made good on 18-of-24 free throw attempts to hold off a pesky WCC team to begin the season on a good note.
"It pays off when you are able to shoot three's like that early in the season," said Belpre head coach Scott Miller, whose girls connected on 9-of-16 shots from behind the arc. "We've been really emphasizing our free throw shooting as well and did what we needed to do tonight from the foul line."
Last season Belpre won by 18 and 20 points in the two meetings between the two but had their hands full from the beginning with Wood County Christian.
The lead changed hands some 14 times in the opening half alone before the Eagles scored the final five points of the half to take a 36-31 lead into intermission.
BELPRE 71, WOOD COUNTY CHRISTIAN 63
Belpre 18 18 19 16 - 71
Wood County Christian 15 16 10 22 - 63
Trinidy King 0 1-2 1, Kenzie Reed 0 0-0 0, Cheyenne Barker 6 2-4 17, Sierra Barker 4 3-3 13, Katelyn Hughes 4 5-7 16, Lexis Cunningham 0 3-4 3, Jackie Cunningham 4 0-0 9, Rachel Packard 1 0-0 2, Hannah Lawrentz 3 4-4 10, Totals 22 18-24 71.
Wood County Christian 63
Hannah Lord 7 2-6 17, Heather Lord 13 6-10 32, Katie Ward 2 5-6 9, Rachel Ruble 1 0-0 2, Adria Herridge 1 1-2 3, Rebecca Morris 0 0-0 0, Sophia Knolle 0 0-0 0, Totals: 24 14-24 63.
Belpre (1-0): Shooting: 22-61 (36.0 percent), Three-Point Shooting: 9-16 (56.2 percent) (C.Barker 3, Hughes 3, S. Barker 2, J. Cunningham 1), Rebounds: 27 (L.Cunningham 8, J. Cunningham 4, Packard 4), Assists: 15 (Lawrentz 4), Turnovers: 21, Steals: 13 (S. Barker 4), Team Fouls: 18.
Wood County Christian (0-1): Shooting: 24-50 (48 percent), Three-Point Shooting: 1-4 (25 percent) (Hannah Lord), Rebounds: 34 (Ward 10, Herridge 7), Assists: 11 (Heather Lord 3, Hannah Lord 3), Turnovers: 29, Steals: 12 ( Heather Lord 5, Hannah Lord 3), Team Fouls: 15.
Next games: Belpre vs. Caldwell at Marietta College, Saturday 5 p.m., Coshocton Christian vs Wood County Christian, today 5:30 p.m.
Wood County Christian got 17 points from sophomore Heather Lord in the first half and 10 more from her twin sister Hannah to match the red-hot shooting Eagles shot-per-shot.
"Last year was their first year of playing organized ball," said WCC head coach Dave Weekley of his twin guards. "They really picked it up at the end of last season and now they have picked up right where they left off."
Belpre finally managed to put a little space between it and the Lady 'Cats early in the second half as it used a 17-7 run to take a 53-38 lead late in the third quarter.
Sierra and Cheyenne Barker each hit a triple in the Belpre run and the Golden Eagle defense forced 10 WCC turnovers in the third quarter.
Cheyenne Barker finished the third quarter with a basket with an assist from Sierra and Sierra got the final quarter started with a steal and a bucket at the other end to give Belpre their biggest lead of the game at 57-41.
Wood County slowly began to chip away at the lead as Heather Lord hit back-to-back field goals and Hannah converted on a pair of free throw attempts to trim the lead to 59-49 with just over five minutes to play.
After Cheyenne Barker made good on one-of-two free throw attempts, Heather Lord answered with another basket to cut the lead to nine, but Belpre sophomore Hannah Lawrentz let the air right back out of the Lady Wildcat balloon with four points in a row to push the lead back to 64-51 with two and a half minutes to go.
The Eagles finished things off at the charity stripe to open the 2013-2014 campaign with a win.
Miller was pleased with his team's offensive performance but felt the Golden Eagle defense will need to improve for them to have a successful season.
"We are really going to have to go to work on our defense," said Miller, in his fourth year at the helm of the Lady Eagles. "They (WCC) were solid but we gave them to many good looks at the basket."
Belpre placed four girls in double figures with Cheyenne Barker and Katelyn Hughes leading the way with 17 and 16 points respectively while Sierra Barker chipped in with 13 points and four steals and Lawrentz added 10."
Heather Lord led all scores with 32 points while also coming up with five rebounds and five steals, while Hannah Lord finished with 17.
Katie Ward just missed a double-double as she tallied nine points and ten rebounds for WCC.
Despite the loss Weekley was pleased with the effort put forth by his team against a tough Belpre squad.
"Offensively we are very happy, but defensively we aren't quite where we want to be. You have got to give some credit to Belpre as they shot so well tonight," said Weekley. "I am not a big fan of morale victories but this is as close as I'll admit to having one."
The two will get to see one another very soon as they are scheduled for a rematch in Belpre on the third of December.