BELLAIRE - Bellaire has found itself in countless tight games through the course of the early portion of the season.
However, for the first time, Saturday afternoon inside the 'Greenhouse' at St. John Central, the Big Reds found themselves on the winning end.
Bellaire appeared as if it was going to waltz to victory, but had to fight off a spirited late spurt by the Irish before earning a 50-46 victory.
"We've been in a lot of tight games and to finally win one, I think speaks of how much better we're getting," said Big Red coach Marci Bonar.
Both teams were behind the proverbial 8-ball to a degree. Bellaire (4-7) was without leading scorer and floor leader Cari Crozier and St. John Central (5-4) was once again without frosh pivot Lindsey Froelich, who is sidelined wit a foot problem.
Part of the feeling out process resulted in a 13-all deadlock after one period.
Looking at a 16-13 deficit, Bellaire closed the half on a 14-2 run to lead 27-18 at the break. Freshman Nina Crook, who got the start in Crozier's absence, tallied eight points in the second.
Early in the game, Bellaire took advantage of Froehlich's absence in the paint by throwing the ball to Aubrey Ryan, who scored 10 of her 13 points in the first half.
The Irish, who've dropped two straight this week, got on a run of their own to begin the third quarter. They scored the first nine points to knot the game.
Hard-working senior Kristen Russell, who scored a game-high 28 points, sparked the run with a conventional three-point play.
Bellaire finally stopped the bleeding with 4:02 to play in the third when sophomore Kierstyn Kidder tallied. That bucket ignited a 11-0 run, which spanned nearly three minutes before Russell scored. Bellaire led 39-31 after three.
The Reds appeared ready to put the game on ice as they stretched the margin to as many as 15 at 48-33, but an 11-1 run - with Russell at the command - got St. John within five at 49-44 with 1:24 to go.
"We played hard enough, but we talked about going into the game that we also had to play smart," said Irish head coach Bubba Kapral. "At times, we do some things that just aren't very smart. I told the girls to not let people tell them this was a great comeback because if you do what you're supposed to do, you don't need to make a comeback. It's only a great comeback if you win."