BENTON — Junior forwards Briana Ernst and Kassandra Palzkill combined for 14 of Belmont’s 15 points in overtime to lift the visiting Lady Braves over the 10th-ranked Benton Zephyrs 72–62 in their Six Rivers West opener at Benton on Thursday, Dec. 8.
“We’re starting the season with Benton and Shullsburg, so we’ll take this one,” said Belmont head coach Alan Seabrooke. “We just kept fighting. It was hard without [senior center] Caitlyn [Gilbertson] on the floor, but we got it done.”
Benton (2–2 overall, 1–1 SRW) grabbed a 52–49 lead on a three-point play by junior Emma Lawrence with 7:28 remaining in regulation; and, to add insult to injury, the Braves (5–2, 1–0) lost Gilbertson on the play after she picked up her fifth foul.
The Zephyrs extended the lead to 57–51 on a 3-pointer by senior guard Ally Jansen and another basket by Lawrence but they decided to slow things down on the offensive end of the court for the rest of regulation, which allowed the Braves the opportunity to rally.
A bucket by Palzkill and a 3-pointer by senior guard Trinity Rucker brought Belmont back within a point with under two minutes remaining, and then Ernst went 1-for-2 at the free throw line with 1:23 to go to even the score at 57 all.
Neither team could break the tie in regulation, but the Braves opened the overtime period with a basket by Ernst and two banked-in foul shots by Palzkill to go back on top to stay. Belmont went 5-for-8 from the free throw line the rest of way while holding the hosts to just three free throws in the final three minutes of OT to seal the victory.
“Them stalling at the end kind of gave us a little life and allowed us to catch our breath. We took advantage of that,” admitted Seabrooke. “We hit our free throws and got a couple of offensive rebounds and putbacks as well.”
Ernst scored eight of her 13 points in OT, while Palzkill chipped in with 10 of her 15 points after Gilbertson left the game to help seal a key conference victory for the Braves.
“Lawrence did a good job of slowing down Bri for most of the game, but she got a bit tired and was standing up a bit on defense. Bri took advantage of that in the OT. Kassandra had a match-up advantage all night and she did a good job taking advantage of that, too.”
Gilbertson scored 18 of her team-high 26 points in the first half to lead the Braves out to a 35–33 halftime lead. Sophomore Abby Althaus and senior Paige Nolan added six points apiece for Belmont, who finished 7-of-10 from the foul line in OT after connecting on just 5-of-17 free throws in regulation.
“Early in the game we definitely did not make our free throws. That’s kind of been a trend for us this season because we made them at the end of the game. When it’s clutch, it’s good to see them go in,” Seabrooke noted.
Lawrence finished with game-high 33 points to lead the Zephyrs.
Belmont has another tough Six Rivers West game at River Ridge on Friday, Dec. 16, and returns home to host Galena in a non-conference contest on Monday, Dec. 19.
Belmont 72, Benton 62 (OT)
(from Thursday, Dec. 8 @ Benton)
Belmont 35 22 15 — 72
Benton 33 24 5 — 62
Belmont (5–2, 1–0) — Abby Althaus 6, Trinity Rucker 5, Kassandra Palzkill 15, Briana Ernst 13, Elsie De Haan 1, Caitlyn Gilbertson 26, Paige Nolan 6. Totals 29 12-26 72.
Benton (2–2, 1–1) — Ally Jansen 13, Brianna Mellenberger 4, Emma Lawrence 33, Paige Murphy 5, Sophie Dougherty 2, Kayla