BOWIE – Bowie State’s David Belle made timely plays on his way to posting a career night and pushing the Bulldogs to a narrow 74-70 victory over No. 11 Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania at A.C. Jordan Arena on Dec. 5.
The junior guard put together an all-around efficient performance and registered a career-high 24 points on 50 percent shooting from the field to go with 10 rebounds as Bowie (4-5) earned its fourth straight win, while handing Shippensburg its first loss of the season.
“I feel like we all played together collectively and did whatever it took to win the game,” Belle said. “They were a very good team – No. 11 in the nation – but we just stayed composed during that run and just stuck together.”
One of the game-changing plays occurred with 16:35 left in the second half when Belle blocked a 3-point attempt, chased the ball down and finished on the other end with a two-handed slam as the home crowd and bench erupted. Belle did well at the foul line, making eight of nine free throws.
“Dave has just been getting better, and better, and better,” Coach Darrell Brooks said of Belle. “I think what it is, is he’s starting to get comfortable with being ‘that guy’… He’s taking big shots, he’s making big defensive plays for us, he’s making energy play for us and I think he’s just settling into his role as team leader.”
In his post-game remarks, Brooks expressed contentment with his team’s performance in pulling off the upset.
The 10-year head coach emphasized guarding the 3-point line and rebounding, while credited his guys with controlling the pace of the game, their ability to draw fouls and a superb defensive effort.
“I thought, firstly, that we played with a tremendous amount of energy for the entire game,” Brooks said.
Cameron Hayes was a pivotal piece in the close win, Brooks said. Besides Belle, Hayes proved to be the difference maker, hitting two huge 3-pointers and a mid-range jumper for two points to keep the game close midway through the second half. The 6-foot-5 guard finished with 15 points on 4-of-7 shooting, including 3-of-5 makes from deep.
“Cam Hayes saved us,” Brooks said. “We were struggling a little bit and he got going… He carried us at times when we needed to be carried.”
The game remained close from start to finish, both teams trading baskets and going on scoring runs back-and-forth. Though the Raiders appeared undersized, they kept the game close and matched the Bulldogs with each shot, showing why they are an elite Division II program.
Both teams matched each other in turnovers (9) but Bowie collected more rebounds (45-40) and converted more of their free throws, scoring 18 of its 21 attempts.
Shippensburg (8-1) relied on Lamar Talley, who drilled three consecutive 3-pointers early in the second half to help the Raiders regain the lead, which only lasted momentarily. The junior forward finished with 11 points and seven rebounds.
“It was just a learning experience for us,” Talley said of his squad’s first loss. “First half, I think they were a lot tougher than us on the boards, and I feel like we gave up too many second-chance points.”
Shippensburg Head Coach Chris Fite said Bowie presented his team with an adversity it has not faced all season.
“To Bowie’s credit, they played really well tonight and they took it to us in a lot of different facets of the game and they deserved the win,” Fite said.
“They hurt us in transition. I thought their guys got out and got to the rim and were ready to get buckets or get fouled. I thought they really pounded the glass in the second half and were very effective in that area. And then they had a couple of guys who stepped and got them big buckets when they needed them.”
Raiders forward John Castello had 22 points, eight rebounds and two assists while guard Jake Biss added 12 points along with four assists.