By Jon Gremmels
Herald Sports Editor
Her team trailing by 10 points midway through the third quarter, Bellevue’s Kelsey Ernst decided she had seen enough.
Playing the way one would expect an all-state senior to play, Ernst took over and almost single-handedly put the Comets on top. Then, she had plenty of help after that as the Comets pulled away to beat Prince of Peace 57-42 in the opener of a Big East Conference girls-boys basketball doubleheader Friday night at Central Catholic Auditorium.
The Irish, who had taken a 28-26 lead into halftime when Karli Atkinson (11 points) hit a rebound follow shot with a minute left in the second quarter, opened the second half with eight consecutive points. Maggie Schnier hit a pair of free throws, Julia Isenhour added a rebound follow basket, Lauren Pittman scored a transition layup off a long outlet pass from Isenhour and Atkinson made a pair of free throws for a 36-26 lead with 5:38 remaining in the third quarter.
“We were up by 10 and started taking bad shots,” Prince of Peace coach Maggie Furlong said.
“They got up and I decided we can’t get in a hole against them; we play a lot of head games when we get behind,” Ernst, a 5-foot-10 forward, said. “I had to suck it up.”
Bellevue coach Tim Roth said: “They went up 10 and we called a timeout and went back to a man defense and got a couple of defensive stops. We got Kelsey the ball, and she scored.”
Ernst started Bellevue’s comeback with a three-point play, hitting a follow shot and adding a free throw with 4:02 remaining. Fouled on an inbound play, she hit 1 of 2 free throws to cut the gap to 36-32 with 3:32 left. After a Prince of Peace turnover, Ernst scored from the block to cut the gap to four, then her outlet pass led to a layup by Mariah Steines to make it 36-34 with 1:25 left. Ernst assisted again, finding Carly Rubel on a break down the lane to make it a two-point game, then Nicole Beckley scored in transition to tie it at 38 with 28 seconds left in the quarter.
That’s how the third quarter ended, but Bellevue didn’t stop there.
“They started scoring and we froze up a bit — some of that was from a lack of experience,” Furlong said. “You’ve got to credit them, too. They were down 10 and turned the game around that fast.”
Ernst, who led all scorers with 18 points, scored on a baseline cut to the basket just 11 seconds into the fourth quarter, putting Bellevue ahead to stay at 40-38.
The Comets, playing at least until January without all-conference guard Allison Reeg (knee), suffered a scare when Ernst took a hip check and hobbled to the bench moments later.
Helped when the Irish hit just 1 of 4 free-throw attempts, in a one-minute span, the Comets didn’t fold without Ernst. Steines, who finished with 15 points, banked in a 15-footer from the left wing, then Rubel found Rachel Kilburg alone under the basket as Bellevue built its lead to 44-39 with 4:19 left in the game.
“I was so excited; they kept pushing themselves,” Ernst said of her teammates.
Steines dropped in a 3-pointer for a 47-39 lead, then Rubel scored inside to extend the advantage to 10 with 2:59 left. The Comets added six more points — including two free throws and a basket by Steines — before Prince of Peace ended its drought. The end came too late for the Irish to recover, however.
BELLEVUE 57, PRINCE OF PEACE 42
BELLEVUE (2-2, 2-1) — Rachel Kilburg 1 0-0 2, Lexee Sullivan 3 0-0 6, Mariah Steines 6 2-2 15, Kelsey Ernst 6 6-7 18, Tessa Fahey 0 0-0 0, Alicia Urbain 0 0-0 0, Nicole Beckley 3 0-0 8, Carly Rubel 3 2-2 8. Totals 22 10-12 57.
PRINCE OF PEACE (2-4, 1-2) — Jackie Kokjohn 0 0-0 0, Andrea Aquilani 1 0-0 3, Megan Mulholland 3 1-3 8, Karli Atkinson 4 2-4 11, Maggie Schnier 2 3-4 7, Sydney Laufenberg 0 0-0 0, Halee Vicks 0 0-0 0, Julia Isenhour 3 3-6 9, Lauren Pittman 1 2-2 4. Totals 14 11-20 42.
Bellevue 10 16 12 19 — 57
Prince of Peace 11 17 10 4 — 42
3-point goals — Bellevue 3 (Beckley 2, Steines); Prince of Peace 3 (Aquilani, Mulholland, Atkinson). Total fouls — Bellevue 13, Prince of Peace 15. Fouled out — None.