DARLINGTON – No members of this year’s Belmont girls basketball team were old enough to be in pre-school when Darlington started their winning streak over the Braves, but those players were sure happy to be around when Belmont finally ended it in Darlington last Thursday night.
The Lady Braves converted 10 of their 17 free throw attempts in the final two minutes, 37 seconds of the game to hold off the hard-charging Lady Redbirds, 58-52, in a physical non-conference girls’ basketball game at DHS on Dec. 29.
Belmont’s victory over Darlington is the first since the Braves eked out a 53-52 decision over the ‘Birds on Nov. 28, 1995.
“It’s nice to get that monkey off our backs. Words cannot describe the feelings I have for these girls,” said Belmont head coach Kaleen McGettigan after her team put to rest a 15-year losing streak against Darlington. It’s an amazing feeling to come into Darlington– a team you haven’t beaten in a really long time– and you come away with a victory. I couldn’t be more proud of the effort and how they finished the game.”
The Braves (6-1 overall) scored the final nine points of the third quarter to turn a slim 35-33 lead into a 44-33 advantage going into the fourth quarter, but the Redbirds (4-4) started off the fourth quarter on a 16-4 run of their own to erase that 11-point deficit and take a 49-48 lead.
“We had the lead and we were in control. We had them on the ropes, but we just couldn’t finish (our shots) inside. We got shots right where you want to get them (down the stretch), and we were just not finishing down there,” admitted Darlington head coach Michael Chambers.
Senior point guard Amy Jorgenson, who sat out much of the first half and half of the third quarter due to foul trouble, came out on a mission in the fourth quarter as she knocked down two quick baskets– including a 3-pointer– to spark the rally.
Junior center Claire Scott, who also ran into foul trouble late, added seven points during the Redbirds’ run, while Jorgenson went 4-for-4 at the foul line to put Darlington ahead 49-48 with 2:45 to play.
“We have to get rid of those goofy fouls. Our three scorers have to be on the court. They can’t be sitting on the bench. We have to play smarter,” Chambers added.
Belmont junior Cassie McCarthy tied the game at 49 with a free throw just seconds later, then added a free throw less than a minute after that to put the Braves back on top at 50-49 with 1:46 remaining.
McCarthy and senior Kailee Kamps each hit three foul shots down the stretch, while freshman forward Keegan Kamps went 2-for-2 at the line to lift the Braves to the victory.
“I was nervous (when Darlington took the lead), but I had the feeling that we had this. We had a lot of confidence built up from when we had a double digit lead. I knew with our free throw shooting that if we took our time we’d be able to finish it and win,” stated McGettigan.
Belmont hit 12-of-21 free throws in the fourth quarter, including 8-of-12 in the final 1:28 to put away the ‘Birds.
The Braves finished 18-for-31 at the line on the night, while the Redbirds went 22-for-29 at the stripe in the foul-plagued game.
“You invest so much energy fighting back that once you get on top what do you have left,” questioned Chambers. “I can’t fault (my team) for their effort because that was awesome, but I sure wish we could have finished it.”
Darlington opened up an early 10-3 lead behind an 8-0 scoring spurt, but the Braves answered back with the final seven points of the first quarter to tie the game at 12 all and then netted the first 11 points of the second quarter to build up a 23-12 advantage.
Kai. Kamps scored nine of her team-high 20 points during that 18-0 Belmont run, while senior Molly Bockhop (five points) and McCarthy (four) combined for the rest of the points.
Darlington junior Cassidy Chambers scored eight of the final 10 points of the first half to trim the Braves’ lead down to 25-20 by halftime, then she added seven more of her team-high 20 points early in the third quarter to pull the ‘Birds within a basket at 35-33.
“(Darlington) has played some tough competition and played them well. They are a heck of a team,” McGettigan said. “For us to come out here and compete on that level says a lot about where we have come from and where we are going as a team.”
McCarthy matched her season-high with 18 points. Bockhop finished with nine points and Ke. Kamps chipped in with seven for the Braves.
Jorgenson tallied 11 of her 17 points in the fourth quarter, and Scott scored 13 points for the Redbirds.
Belmont returns home to face Benton/Shullsburg in a Six Rivers West game on Friday, Jan. 6, and the Braves host Argyle in a non-conference game on Monday, Jan. 9.
Darlington heads to Mineral Point for another challenging SWAL game on Thursday, Jan. 5, and the Redbirds return home to host Dodgeville in non-conference action on Tuesday, Jan. 10.
Belmont…… 12 13 19 14 - 58
Darlington… 12 8 13 19 - 52
Leading Scorers: Belmont– Kailee Kamps 20, Cassie McCarthy 18, Molly Bockhop 9, Keegan Kamps 7, Jordyn Kamps 4. Darlington– Cassidy Chambers 20, Amy Jorgenson 17, Claire Scott 13, Tatum Evenstad 2.