THE PLAINS, Ohio - For the second straight season, Belpre's boys basketball tournament trail was ended by Zane Trace Saturday afternoon at Athens High School with a 53-40 win over the Golden Eagles in an Ohio Division III sectional final.
With seventh-seeded Belpre just a win away from a district berth and playing at the OU Convo, Saturday's outcome came down to the fourth quarter, which was opened by a Ryan Leasure trey to bring the Golden Eagles within six at 44-38.
But Belpre, concluding its season at 14-11, got only an inside basket by Bryce Pittenger the rest of the game as the second-seeded Pioneers scored nine of the game's final 11 points to secure the win.
Pittenger and Leasure, both seniors, and junior Nick Therriault led the Golden Eagle point-production with 11 each, while senior Dakota Hoffman netted seven points to complete the scoring.
For now 17-5 Zane Trace, Connor Smith tallied 15 points and Wes Beam added 14
The game was a tight one in the first period with the Pioneers ahead by two at 13-11 at the quarter break.
In the second stanza, a 9-2 Zane Trace run pushed the Pioneers out to a 26-18 advantage at the 3:41 mark before two Leasure free throws and a Hoffman hoop reduced the deficit to four at 26-22 with 2:12 to play in the first half.
But Zane Trace scored the last five points, with Smith hitting a basket from the right side with three seconds left to give his team a nine-point lead, 31-22, at halftime.
The Pioneers built a 16-point lead, 44-28, by 1:39 of the third quarter on a 9-0 run. However, Belpre finished strong as Leasure scored followed by Pittenger driving the baseline for a bucket, then canning a trey from the left wing with 7.9 seconds remaining to slice the gap to nine, 44-35, going to the fourth quarter
''We just didn't get it done today and came up short,'' said Belpre head coach Jordan Thornhill. ''Things didn't go our way right there at the end of the first half. Then in the fourth quarter after coming back at the end of the third, we had our opportunities, but just ran out of gas.
''We didn't shoot the ball particularly well either. We had little stretches, but just could not sustain any type of momentum or get things rolling smoothly.''
Last year, it was in the first round and this year, it was in the second round that Belpre bowed out of tournament play at the hands of the Pioneers. ''It was just a frustrating game all around, and especially for our five seniors,'' said Thornhill.