Boys basketball: Rugged schedule pays off for Belmont in tourney win

A handful of close losses during the regular season prevented the Belmont Bison from moving up to a higher seed in the Division I sectional tournament. But those close games helped the Bison move on Saturday at Trotwood High School.

Belmont withstood a late surge from Lebanon for a 55-51 victory in the opening round of the sectional tournament. The Bison, who led by seven to start the quarter, saw their lead cut to 51-50 with 1:44 left in the fourth quarter.

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“We’d been in situations like that before,” Belmont senior Jadon Furlow said. “I think we were mentally ready for it. All our losses were really big games and really great teams. That’s what prepared us for today’s game and to finish it out.”

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Belmont scored four of the final five points in the final 1:35 and benefited from a Lebanon turnover with 27 seconds left.

Furlow led Belmont with 18 points, nine rebounds and three blocks. Several of his baskets came on offensive rebounds, including outworking the defense to grab his own misses.

“I’ve been playing like that since I’ve grown up. It’s just the heart I have for the game,” Furlow said. “I want to get my own rebounds because I know it helps the team and I want do do whatever I can to win.”

Senior Phil Harewood came off the bench for 14 points, five rebounds and three steals for ninth-seeded Belmont (15-6). Lebanon (14-9) was seeded No. 7.

The first-round game was a tough opener for both teams.

“You’re in a sectional where it’s always going to be competitive,” Lebanon coach Kevin Higgins said. “That’s what you’d expect unless your one of the top two or three seeds. (Belmont) did a great job. They just outplayed us.”

Lebanon’s largest lead came at 14-8 with 5:21 left in the first half. But Belmont’s quickness took over during a 15-2 run with 2:28 left. Nine of the Warriors’ 12 turnovers came as the result of Bison’s steals.

“I watched film on they were very deliberate. They’re going to pass it nine or 10 times to get the shot they want,” Belmont coach Art Winston said. “We knew we couldn’t let them get the lead. If they got the lead late in the ball game with their offense we knew we might not get the ball back.”

Belmont also out-rebounded Lebanon 29-26 overall, including a 13-6 advantage offensively.

“They were real physical and I think early on their physicality took us out of what we wanted to do,” Winston said. “Once we adjusted to it we were fine. … We knew coming in it was going to be tough. They’re a good team. I like that team. They play hard.”

Junior Zach Huffman added 15 points and sophomore Luke Arnold 10 for Lebanon.

“The second quarter they killed us on the boards,” Higgins said. “They played really well. We had some bad turnovers. They just made more plays than us.”

Belmont advances to play No. 4 Miamisburg (18-4) 6 p.m. Wednesday at Centerville High School. Miamisburg had a first-round bye.

Three of Belmont’s losses this season came to state-ranked Wayne (No. 3 in D-I), Springfield (No. 16 in D-I) and Columbus Beechcroft (No. 2 in D-II).

“I enjoyed our schedule,” Winston said. “I think it prepared us for the games we’re going to be playing (in the tournament).”

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