Morgan threes pace Thunder

BELLEVILLE – Mollie Morgan made back-to-back, fourth-quarter 3-pointers and Belleville Mennonite beat Juniata Mennonite for its first win of the season, a 36-29 victory in a non-league girls basketball game Monday night.

“I’m very proud of how they played,” Belleville Mennonite coach Ally Zook said. “They only had 12 turnovers. I challenged them to have less than 15 and they did that.”

Morgan’s critical threes stretched a two-point Thunder lead to eight with 5:40 to play in the game.

“She kept shooting at the beginning of the game and they weren’t falling,” Zook said. “Once they started falling, she gains more confidence. Then she’s able to follow through with them.”

“Give her credit,” Juniata Mennonite coach Andy Meiser said of Morgan. “I just told our girls to find her in the zone and she got loose and knocked down two threes that were probably the turning point in the game.”

Valarie Meiser made a jumper and Molly Arnold added a free throw to cut the lead back to 28-23 in favor of Belleville Mennonite, but Grace Peachey answered with a bucket for the Thunder and Juniata Mennonite got no closer the rest of the way.

Peachey and Morgan both were able to use their height advantage and both registered double-doubles.

Morgan finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds, while Peachey scored 11 points and pulled down 10 rebounds.

“It was a big deal,” Zook said of the size advantage. “I’m trying to get the girls to box out and get positioned more. I think they got away with not doing that tonight. I still think they need to do a better job with it.”

Arnold led Juniata Mennonite with 12 points, including making eight of 11 free throws.

“She was really getting to the basket pretty well,” Meiser said. “She was working hard in the post. We just had to balance that with some perimeter play tonight and those just weren’t falling.”

The game started slow as Juniata Mennonite jumped out to a 6-2 lead after the first quarter.

Peachey’s jumper was a the only basket for Belleville Mennonite in the quarter.

After Arnold’s two free throws stretched the lead to 8-2 Juniata Mennonite, the Thunder went on a 12-0 run over the next seven and a half minute of the first half.

Morgan attempted a three as time expired that hit the square and narrowly missed going in, keeping the lead at 14-8 Belleville Mennonite.

The Lions came out of the half with a run of their own.

Alexis Hahn-Kline’s basket finished off the 9-0 Juniata Mennonite run to put the Lions up 17-14 with 4:24 left in the third quarter.

Peachey’s bucket and free throw were sandwiched by Morgan’s first three of the night to give the Thunder a 6-0 run to end the quarter and give them a 20-14 lead going to the fourth.

“It was kind of a game of runs,” Meiser said. “Both teams made some. We just couldn’t hold onto the momentum that we gained there (out of halftime). Give them credit. They ran some good stuff and found us on defense. They played well.”

Belleville Mennonite seemed to listen to its coach, playing with a sense of urgency.

“I told them to play like we’re down six points,” Zook said. “Play like we’re down not like we’re ahead.”

They did exactly that, looking to score every time they had the ball.

The 16-point final quarter solidified the win for Belleville.

“Belleville’s record isn’t indicative of how good they are,” Meiser said. “They’ve improved greatly from last year.”

Belleville Mennonite (1-10) will host Forbes Road tonight.

Juniata Mennonite (6-2, 3-1 ACAA) will host Northumberland Christian tonight at 5:30 at West Snyder Elementary.