SOUTH WHITLEY – It truly was a game of halves on Saturday as Bellmont traveled to Whitko, readjusting themselves at halftime to get more comfortable in the second half. In the end, the Braves pushed ahead of host Whitko for the 76-67 win.
The game remained a see-saw battle until midway through the third when Tyler James converted on an and-one opportunity to push Bellmont ahead 44-43. The foul by Clayton Ebbinghouse and finish by James was part of a long run of Whitko struggling to find a rhythm in their long range shooting. Bellmont turned many of those missed Wildcat opportunities into their own chance to play steady and limit mistakes; although their coach still sees room for growth.
“It was still not a very clean game for us,” Bellmont coach Jonathon Fuelling said. “In the fourth quarter, we take some silly shots, we foul, we leave our feet on jump shooters. But I thought we did enough to win.”
Throughout their run in the second half that seized control, Bellmont pushed the ball consistently to Kade Fuelling, who was dominating from 10 feet and in. He worked with his back to the basket and in the higher post with room to work. Fuelling finished with a game high 29 points on 13-of-16 shooting from the field and nine rebounds.
With the lead, Bellmont was content to face long offensive possessions. While the Whitko defense wasn’t giving many holes at times, the Braves saw no reason to press the situation while looking for Whitko lapses.
“I thought we did good in the third quarter buying some time. Kade had a couple of fouls, we had him out. We had Isaiah [Wellman], our point guard out. I thought we did a great job of taking care of the ball, running some clock, getting some easy looks,” Jonathon Fuelling said.
Whitko fought back as best they could down the stretch while still struggling to hit shots, despite creating good space for themselves. A pair of Drake Lewis plays over a three minute span in the fourth cut the deficit to 60-57. For a stretch, the teams exchanged shots with Bellmont working the ball to Kade Fuelling in the high post, but Brett Sickafoose answered back with a jumper with a hand in his face at the two minute mark that kept it a three point game.
James answered back immediately in what turned out to be the final nail at the 1:16 mark when his triple put Bellmont back up by six. Bellmont closed out the game from there with free throws, where they were 20-of-25 on the night.
The game didn’t always flow with Bellmont’s control though, the first half favoring Whitko while still being a back and forth clash. It took halftime adjustments for Bellmont the change the tide in South Whitley.
“I think we just had to go over what we talked about at the beginning of the game. We were going to face guard, as much as we could, Sickafoose and if he gave it up, not let him get it back,” Jonathon Fuelling said. “We needed to run at [Ebbinghouse] more, make him put it on floor and just he opposite with Lewis. We had to make sure we were giving him a step and not letting him beat us.”
In the first half, Bellmont focused more attention on Sickafoose, the leading Wildcat scorer. His touches were limited and his good looks at the rim were few and far between, going 0-of-5 from the field in the opening half. Meanwhile, his teammates lifted the Wildcats up with Ebbinghouse, Lewis and William Rickerd all chipping in big moment and shots. Rickerd’s back to back possessions of a cutback and a three pointer near the three minute mark of the first quarter gave the Wildcats an early 13-10 lead.
Bellmont took the end of opening quarter lead and extended it to 18-15 on a Nic Ellsworth buzzer beater.
Lewis got hot in the second for Whitko and really dictated the pace of the game as Bellmont continued its focus on Sickafoose. Lewis scored 11 of his team high 20 points in the frame. But just as they had the quarter before, Bellmont took some momentum back for themselves with Kade Fuelling’s buzzer beating three at halftime that cut the Whitko lead to 36-33.
Ebbinghouse hit four three pointers in the first half where his team had six of the eight they hit all night.
The win rights the ship early for Bellmont, who improves to 3-1 after a loss to Concordia in their previous game. They will continue to play out of conference until December ‘s Northeast 8 Conference opener at New Haven.
“I think, for the most part, when these kids see who they have played and who they haven’t played…we were pretty disappointed with our showing against Concordia with how Norwell played them seeing as how Norwell is a conference game,” Jonathon Fuelling said.
“At the same time, we saw that Whitko beat Columbia City and that gives us an opportunity to realize that if we do things the right things in practice to improve, we can play with anybody at times.”
The Braves ended with four players in double figures. Behind Fuelling was Tyler James’ 20 points, 11 from Ellsworth and Scott James’ 10 points and five assists. Bellmont hit 63.4 percent from the field versus Whitko’s 43.8 percent.
Sickafoose did end up getting loose for Whitko, scoring 30 seconds into the second half for the first time and finishing with 15 points. Ebbinghouse and Rickerd each added 12 points as Whitko had four players in double figures as well.