It may be just eight days into the new year, but Tuesday evening’s Inter-County Conference North Division contest at Bellwood-Antis had a definite playoff atmosphere when Juniata Valley came knocking.

Junior Halee Smith poured in a game-high 35 points for the Green Hornets (8-2, 4-1 ICC North). But, the defending PIAA Class AA state champion Blue Devils put four players in double figures, including 26 points from last year’s Pennsylvania Class AA Player of the Year Alli Campbell and Bellwood never looked back from an eight-point lead at the quarter en route to a 79-55 victory.

“Bellwood just shot the ball very well tonight and we didn’t,” commented Hornet head coach Rachelle Hopsicker. “But, we saw a lot of good things to work on. Our game plan was to play our game, but we didn’t do the little things, like setting screens or using them well and Bellwood did tonight.”

Hayden and Avery Taylor followed Smith’s performance with eight points apiece. A. Taylor added nine rebounds, while H. Taylor dished out six assists and had three steals. Smith also pulled down eight boards.

Emilie Leidig drained four treys on the evening and added 18 points for the Devils (9-2, 4-0 ICC North), while Sakeria Haralson followed with 15 markers and Jaydyn Shuke 11, including three buckets from behind the arc. Campbell also added 13 rebounds, dished out seven assists and had six steals. Haralson grabbed 10 boards, while Leidig added five assists.

The Devils shot a blistering 54 percent from the field (28-of-52), including 17-of-31 from two-point range (55 percent) and 11-of-21 from three-point land (52 percent). The Hornets netted 21-of-59 from the field (36 percent).

“Halee played an amazing game both offensively and defensively,” continued Hopsicker. “She just seemed to get tougher as the game went on. She had a lot of finesse outside and was a beast inside. Hayden also made some good decisions and did a nice job of holding Campbell below her 29 point average.”

Bellwood put 20-plus points on the scoreboard in three of the four quarters and turned an eight-point lead at the quarter into a 43-26 advantage at the half. The Devils defense limited the Hornets to just seven points in the third and carried a 57-33 lead into the final stanza.

“I think we saw a lot of growth for the next time we see Bellwood and we will learn from this game,” concluded Hopsicker. “The girls never quit and the effort and heart was there tonight.”

Jaidyn McCracken posted 15 points to help the Bellwood junior varsity to a 59-27 victory. Maelyn Payne had 11 points for the Hornets (2-3).

Juniata Valley travels to West Branch Friday.

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