What a great effort by the Bel Air girls basketball team on Thursday night in the area round of the Class 5A girls basketball playoffs.
The 28-3 Highlanders knocked off 24-8 North Ranchland Hills 73-61 to advance to the regional quarterfinals for the first time in school history.
The two teams played at a fast pace in the first half and Bel Air controlled the action with its guards and its defense. Bel Air led 43-27 at halftime and used a 15-2 run in the process to get that lead.
In the second half, Bel maintained control against a good Rebels team. Guard play was key for the Highlanders led by Alanis Candelaria (27 points, 6 steals, 6 assists) and Jacinda Woodruff (16 points, 5 steals). Bel Air bothered the visitors all night long on defense and created several opportunities on the offensive end.
Gaby Vega added 11 points for the Highlanders, while Shannon Powell had 9. The Highlanders will play either Monday or Tuesday vs. Eastwood or Arlington Bowie.
Head coach Clay Ward, who is in year 12 at the school, has done a great job in developing the Bel Air program into a consistent winner. The team has bought into what he wants done and it plays an exciting brand of basketball that centers around teamwork and good defense.