Lions secure state berth in huge win against Decatur

The Bellarmine Lions Girls team had a chance to punch their ticket to the WIAA State tournament against the Decatur Gators on Friday, Feb. 17.  The Lions, fresh off of a win against Bethel, were the favorites coming into the game but the Gators were by no means an easy opponent going 16-6 on the year.

A storyline to watch out for as the game started was sophomore Keira Curtis who injured her ankle in the Lions’ previous game against Bethel. She has been a huge contributor to the squad scoring twenty six against Bethel and it would be interesting to see how the Lions would respond. Junior Keira Leingang would get the start as the Lions opted for a 3 big lineup.

As the tip off began the Lions immediately got off running taking an early lead. The Lions dominated the boards creating multiple second chances on offense and picked apart the Gators 2-3 zone. The Lions consistently took open shots from behind the arc and turn around jumpers from the free throw line which spread the defense thin. As the first quarter drew to a close the Lions held the Gators to just nine points and had a five point lead.

After not playing the whole first quarter, coach Chelle Miller felt it was time for Curtis to step onto the court after injuring her ankle just two days earlier. It was a risk but a risk worth taking as Curtis has been lights out the last few games. As the second quarter began the ankle did not seem to be a problem and Curtis immediately made her presence felt hitting a running floater and a catch and shoot three point shot. The Lions continued to disrupt the Gators defensively and at halftime had a double digit lead.

Bellarmine looked to put Decatur away in the third quarter, but every time they seemed to run away with the game the Gators responded with a huge three or timely interior bucket.

Senior Taylor Teeple had a great third quarter hitting shot after shot and playing great defense in the paint. Junior Jada Travis, despite only finishing the night with four points, had a great game consistently dropping dimes all around the floor and even experimented with a few no-look passes. The Gators hung around though and it was still a very competitive game as the fourth quarter began.

Bellarmine continued to look for the knockout punch and Kiara Stone answered with a flurry of buckets. A sweet step back three found the bottom of the net and she had her way in transition going coast to coast and finishing off of the glass.

The Lions went on a 9-0 run with  just under five minutes left and Decatur could not respond. With a couple minutes remaining, the Lions found themselves up 22 and put in sophomore E’Maya Cleveland. She promptly got to work with an electric drive and finished off of the glass for her first of many varsity points. The Lions sealed the deal and punched their ticket to the State tournament winning by a score of 64-37.

Some notable final stat lines for the Lions is a massive 21 point performance by Kiara Stone, a 16 point game courtesy of Taylor Teeple, and 12 points for Kiara Curtis after not even playing in quarter number one.

After a change made last year to the State tournament, the Lions will need to win one more game in order to play in the Dome but has still officially earned their spot at state.

The Lions will look to make noise at state and certainly have the talent to make a deep run but what will be needed is consistency. At their best Bellarmine can beat any team but will need to play with confidence down the stretch or they could have an early exit.

Sophomore Keiara Curtis turns to the fans after hitting a three point shot. (Photo courtesy of Keiara Curtis’s Instagram)