Blairsville girls dominate Marion Center, stand alone at top of Heritage Conference basketball standings
Monday night's matchup between Heritage Conference girls' basketball unbeatens Marion Center and Blairsville was expected to be an epic battle for league supremacy.
It played out more like an unconditional surrender.
Blairsville's press baffled the Stingers, helping the Bobcats take control of the game – and the conference – early in the 66-30 rout.
“I thought it was going to be a lot closer than what it was, especially when you come up here,” Blairsville coach Ralph McGinnis said after his team improved to 12-1 overall, 8-0 Heritage Conference. “This is a tough gymnasium to win in.”
The Bobcats made it look easy as they built a double-digit lead before three minutes had elapsed, using an aggressive full-court press to generate easy transition buckets.
“With our press, we cover a lot of ground and it really frustrates a lot of teams,” McGinnis said. “When you do get a steal, you only usually have 25 feet to cover and it's a transition game then.”
Blairsville consistently found success corralling the Stingers' guards into tight quarters along the sideline and jumping in front of desperate passes for 13 first-quarter steals.
“Our goal was to have less than 12 turnovers, and we gave that up in the first quarter,” Stingers coach Jan Brocious said. “We didn't execute. We did the press-breaker the first couple times down the floor, but then we threw the ball away and we regressed back to that.”
Marion Center (9-4, 7-1) scored on just one of its first 13 possessions and trailed 26-5 after the first quarter.
“They took it to us, and we did not respond,” Brocious said. “I think everyone's disappointed. I know the girls didn't want to not play (well against) them tonight. We just didn't come out to play the kind of game we could have played. It's disappointing in that aspect, but I told the girls we get another shot in February and we hope to come out and be ready to execute and be able to give them a game that would be of Marion Center caliber.”
Chelsey Koren led the Bobcats with 21 points – 13 in the first quarter alone – and finished with a game-high six steals manning the midcourt in the press.
“When you get someone 5-10 that can run like she does and can finish, she's a terror out there on the floor,” McGinnis said of Koren. “It's hard to get around her, especially with her arm length.”
Senior Mackenzie Livingston had 17 points and sophomore Laurel O'Barto added 16 for Blairsville. Koren, Livingston and O'Barto each gathered seven rebounds.
“They're all unselfish,” McGinnis said of his team. “This is why we are where we are, because of the fact that we don't care who scores. We give the ball up to the closest player and we just attack it. If they continue to do this, we're going to be a good team the rest of this year.”
Chantel Glasser led Marion Center with 14 points and a game-high nine rebounds.
Although its scoring pace slackened a bit after its first-quarter scoring spree, Blairsville extended its lead to 41-10 at halftime and was up 60-20 entering the final period.
“It's hard when you look at the scoreboard to try to keep positive,” Brocious said of the rapidly widening margin. “But we told the girls they were playing for pride and not to let the game just go completely out of control.”
Blairsville hasn't lost since falling to Pikeville (Ky.) 64-59 in the first round of the EQT Energy Classic tournament to open the season, reeling off 12 straight wins by 17 points or more. Only twice in that span have the Bobcats sweated a margin of victory tighter than 30 points – against Penns Manor (62-45 on Dec. 11) and Homer-Center (77-52 on Jan. 4).
“We're going to just play every game and try to keep (first place in the conference) in our hands,” McGinnis said. “Last year, they had to wait to see what somebody else did to somebody else to see (who was in first place). We don't want to get into that. We want to take care of business every night if we can.”
Greg Reinbold is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2913 or firstname.lastname@example.org.