The usual start of a rivalry game is slow with both teams working through the nerves a packed house can bring.
The Bellevue West girls team had a different idea, putting up its best first half of the season to grab control over crosstown foe Bellevue East.
The Thunderbirds won their 13th straight game in besting the Chieftains 69-59 at Bellevue East, with a 45-point first half leading the T-birds to the win.
“We were about as high-level of an offense in the first half that I have ever seen,” West coach Marc Kruger said. “We had a scoring mentality out of the gates.”
The Chieftains kept up with West early in the first quarter and lead 7-6 with about 5 minutes left. The T-birds responded with an 8-0 run to take a 14-7 lead, quickly followed by another 8-0 run to take a 25-11 lead just before the end of the first quarter.
“They got out to a fast start,” Chieftain coach Blake Anderson said.
“They made a run and then made another run before we could answer.”
The second quarter featured more Bellevue West offense as they put up another 20 points, but East notched 18 points to keep the game in striking distance.
Amaun Frazier scored eight of her 14 first-half points in the second to keep the Chieftains within 45-31 at halftime.
With the strong first half, the T-birds were in hold-on mode in the second as the scrappy Chieftain team kept narrowing the gap.
“We knew we weren’t going to get a blow out and that they would keep fighting,” Kruger said.
East held the T-birds to 11 points in the third quarter and managed to cut the lead to 10 heading into the fourth. Haley Ourada hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give East the momentum, her eighth point of the quarter.
The Chieftains cut the deficit to seven with just over 6 minutes left, but West responded with a 3 from Anna Dolezal to extend the cushion.
When East got within six, Dolezal stopped the run again when she got fouled on a long-range shot and hit 2 of 3 free throws, starting the 5-1 West run to end the game.
“They did good taking away Kate (Liveringhouse) in the second half,” Kruger said. “Kids hit some big shots for us, like Dolezal hitting that 3 and then getting fouled on a 3. Those were huge plays.”
Madi Braun led the T-birds with 23 points, hitting five 3-pointers in the process.
Liveringhouse notched a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds.
Katie Imig and Chloe Akin-Otiko added 13 and 10 points, respectively.
For Kruger, he was intrigued how his team was going to react to the raucous environment and playing in front of a near sellout crowd.
“I wanted to see mental toughness,” Kruger said. “I wondered how they would respond in an environment like this, and they answered the bell.”
Anderson and the Chieftains are going to concentrate on using this game to get better.
“In the long run, I hope we can remember this feeling we had in the locker room and have it fuel us at district time,” Anderson said.
Frazier and Ourada led East with 17 and 14 points, respectively.
Peyton Hagen added 11 and Roshawn Hollie grabbed nine rebounds.
For Anderson, who was in his first Bellevue East-Bellevue West showdown, it lived up to the hype.
“It was all everyone told me it would be and more,” he said. “These two programs are the mecca of girls basketball in the area and you can’t understand what it’s like until you’re a part of it.”
Bellevue West added another win on Saturday with a 65-40 rout of Lincoln Southeast in a rematch of last season’s Class A state championship game.
The T-birds jumped to a 21-8 lead after the first quarter on their way to the big win.
Liveringhouse dropped 22 points to lead West. Akin-Otiko and Braun added 14 apiece in the win.
Bellevue East lost an overtime bout 52-51 at Lincoln East on Saturday.
Syd Svoboda’s bucket with 3 seconds left in overtime gave the Spartans the win.
Hagen hit a 3-pointer late in regulation to force overtime and led the Chieftains with 22 points.
Frazier added 16 points in the defeat.
Bellevue East held off a feisty Gretna team for a 62-57 road victory Jan. 14.
The Chieftains led most of the way, but didn’t put away the Dragons until the final seconds.
Frazier netted 21 points in the victory with Hagen adding 17 and Hollie 11.
Jamie Schuetz had a game-high 26 points for the Dragons, who also got 15 from Mary Janovich.