Bellaire routs Ellsworth in basketball season opener

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Dec. 2—BELLAIRE — There isn't a banner hung up yet in the gym at Bellaire High School for its Division 4 state runner-up run, the first appearance in the girls basketball finals in school history.

In fact, the only relic of the 2020-21 season in the Eagles' trophy case is a printed out copy of the Record-Eagle's sports cover following a semifinal win over Petersburg Summerfield. It speaks to the mountain of accolades for a program that's been ranked No. 1 in the state several times in the last two years, won four straight district titles, and had the potential to win back-to-back regionals before COVID-19 ended Bellaire's 23-1 season in short.

"Now it's your guys' turn to earn what kind of team we're going to be," Bellaire coach Brad Fischer said he recently told his team. "We will lean back and look back on last year's team, but also make sure this team doesn't feel the pressure of 'Oh my gosh, Bellaire has been a power.'"

How does Fischer make sure his team doesn't feel that pressure? Using last year's team as a reference point to show what it took to get to the Breslin Center.

"A lot of people don't know that those girls never missed a practice in like four years," Fischer said. "Yes we had talent, but that talent also played hard."

The path to March began Wednesday.

Bellaire opened its season with a running-clock win in a 58-8 win over fellow Antrim County foe Ellsworth. The two schools play in same enrollment class and are a mere 15 miles apart, but the last time they met in the regular season was four years ago to the day — Dec. 1, 2017.

Eagles' junior Jacey Somers — a third-year varsity starter — comes into this season as one of the dominant girls players in the region. She scored 17 points and had nine rebounds to go along with six assists and five steals. Charlie Boyce led with a game-high 21 points and snagged four steals. Maddie Evans had four assists and six steals.

Lexi Montgomery scored two of Ellsworth's baskets. Sammy Paalman and Olivia Strange scored the other two.

Ellsworth's season ended last year in a wild buzzer-beater loss to Gaylord St. Mary — who played with six players because of COVID-19 quarantines and injuries. If the Lancers would have won, they would have played Bellaire in the D4 regional semifinals. They lose the tall duo of Alexis Danforth and Judy Veldboom from that team.

Bellaire continues with a home tilt against Burt Lake Northern Michigan Christian Academy, Tuesday. Ellsworth jumps right into Northern Lakes Conference play Monday, hosting Pellston.

Follow Andrew Rosenthal on Twitter @ByAndrewR

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