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Connor Baker’s late 3 lifts Belpre past Meigs in season opener

Photo by Josh Hughes Belpre’s Connor Baker, left, handles the ball during a high school basketball game against Meigs Tuesday. Baker hit the game-winning 3-pointer with eight seconds left to lift the Golden Eagles to a 62-61 victory.

BELPRE –The Belpre Golden Eagles opened the 2020-21 campaign up with a dramatic win over Meigs, as Connor Baker’s game winning 3-pointer with eight seconds left in regulation gave his team a 62-61 win and Belpre’s first 1-0 start in close to a decade.

The Tuesday night thriller in Belpre saw plenty of tight action down the stretch, but it was Meigs who responded down 53-45 with seven minutes to go.

Following a Jordan Harrington baseline drive, the Marauders called a timeout and regrouped. That’s when things got tight.

Despite being out-rebounded 41-29 throughout the contest, the Birds held firm by not surrendering the lead until two Coulter Cleland free throws made it 60-59 with 57.3 seconds left. Cleland led the visiting Marauders (0-2) with 29 points, and he added his final point after being fouled with 39.2 to go. On the ensuing Belpre possession, Evan Wells, who led BHS with 13 points and four rebounds, launched a 3-ball from the left side that hit the rim and came back to Harrington. Harrington then found Baker in the corner who sank the game-winner. This sequence took place following a Belpre timeout with 18 seconds on the clock, and Baker talked about how the sequence happened as he saw it.

“Evan got a great shot. I thought it was in,” he said. “I saw the ball hit the back of the rim, and I saw Jordan board it. I was like, ‘Oh, there’s a spot in the corner.’ I know Jordan was going to look for somebody open, because he’s always like that. He tossed it to me, and I had space to let it fly. It honestly felt really good, too.”

The balanced scoring of Belpre remedied turnover and rebounding problems faced in the fourth. A total of 20 turnovers and 21 second-chance points gave Meigs life, but BHS’s veteran leadership was too strong on a night where they were honored before the opening tip. Brady Shriver’s 12 points and three boards gave the Marauders a tall task on defense, while Dylan Cox’s seven points and team-high eight boards also helped down low. Baker joined Cox, Cody Daugherty, Ashton Yeater and Harrington with a seven in the scoring column, as he spoke of the collective scoring effort on the final possession. This comes as Belpre travels for a 7:30 p.m. tip on Friday to Fort Frye.

“We just drew up a play to either get me or Cody a lane to the basket,” Baker said. “Cody kicked it out to Evan, who is probably our best shooter. The game-winning shot wasn’t drawn up. It just looked perfect, though. This is huge. I think coach said it was like first time in like, 10 years we’ve been 1-0. This is a big win for us, and we’ve got a big one on Friday.”

Head coach Tyler Leasure was fired up after the win, as he now wants his team to prepare for a schedule he calls a “murderers’ row.”

“As a coach, I’m happy with the win, but there are still a lot of things to work on,” he said. “I think we gave up too many rebounds, and I think we didn’t run in transition like we wanted to. (Meigs) played physical, and we had a hard time running our offense, but we’ll take the win. The best thing about going 1-0 is the chance to go 2-0. I know who’s ahead of us, and our guys know who’s ahead of us. It’s a bit of a murderers’ row, if you will. We’re going to work on some things over the next couple days in practice, and we’re really looking forward to getting back on the floor.”

Contact Josh Hughes at jhughes@newsandsentinel.com

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