BRIDGEVILLE – The girls basketball coaching staff at Fort Cherry High School does not spend much time figuring out what type of defense it will face.
Normally, it’s a triangle-and-2 or some version of it, the intent being to neutralize the Rangers’ top two players, Jenna Lucas and Rachel Bellhy. It makes sense. The two seniors have combined for 116 of the Rangers’ 162 points over the last four games and have dissected defenses all season.
That was the strategy Avonworth used Friday night in a preliminary-round game in the WPIAL Class AA playoffs.
It didn’t work. Bellhy, a 5-9 forward, and Lucas, a 5-6 guard, combined for 41 points in the Rangers’ 60-35 rout of the Antelopes at Chartiers Valley High School. The win moved the Rangers’ record to 15-6 and sends them against OLSH, a 39-28 winner over Apollo-Ridge, in a first-round game at a date and time to be determined.
Avonworth ends its season with a 12-10 record.
“We know teams are going to try to take Jenna and Rachel out of the game,” said FC head coach Gary Kacsur. “We knew they would use a triangle-and-2 defense against us.”
It didn’t matter.
Lucas and Bellhy had 17 of the Rangers’ first 19 points to build an 11-point lead, 19-8, early in the second quarter, and Avonworth never recovered.
Bellhy ended up with a double-double, 20 points and 14 rebounds, and Lucas had 21 points and four rebounds.
“Rachel and I have been together for so long, we know what each other is going to do,” said Lucas. “I know when she is going back door, use the pick and roll; we think alike. And when we are on, we’re on.”
They also cause opposing coaches headaches.
“I think they scored the first 20, 25 points against us,” said Avonworth head coach Robert Schulz. “We just didn’t guard them. Bellhy is one of the best players I’ve seen moving without the basketball. We just didn’t stop them.”
Also crucial for Fort Cherry, the third-place team in Section 4, was the play of Hannah Greene. The 5-11 freshman had one of her best games of the season with 11 points and six rebounds. She scored seven of Fort Cherry’s 17 points in a third quarter that stretched the lead to 47-31.
“Coach keeps telling to get open when I can and be confident,” Greene said. “He tells me he doesn’t care how many points I have as long as I rebound.”
Greene had not hit double figures in scoring since a 56-43 win over Brentwood, 12 games ago.
“It’s been a while,” Kacsur said. “She has stepped up her game.”
It’s easy to underestimate Fort Cherry, especially by putting too much emphasis on the six losses. But four of them came against previous WPIAL champions – Seton-La Salle and Bishop Canevin – and another against Class AAA Ringgold early in the season.
“Coming out of a section with Seton-La Salle and Canevin helps prepares us for these games,” said Kacsur. “We’ve been playing really well toward the end of the year.”
The Rangers held Avonworth to four points in the fourth quarter and six in the last 10:44. The win extends the Rangers’ streak to four, and they have won seven of eight and 12 of 14.
“We showed in this game that we are more than just two players,” said Bellhy. “The other girls are stepping up and helping a lot. … Some teams look at our record instead of our team. We’re typically a second-half team so getting up early was huge.”
Tina Bellhy had four points and nine rebounds for Fort Cherry, which outrebounded Avonworth, 34-16.
Mackenzie Mayernik had a double-double for Avonworth, 15 points and 10 rebounds.