By TED RADICK
McCOMB — Arlington girls basketball coach Seth Newlove has enjoyed the ride of working with a solid team.
Now, he’s enjoying watching his players build a solid program.
The Red Devils, down three points at halftime, reeled off 13 straight points to open the third quarter Thursday night and defeated McComb 51-43 in a Blanchard Valley Conference game.
Arlington improved to 12-3 overall and kept pace with Arcadia and Liberty-Benton atop the BVC at 5-1 in league play.
It’s something Newlove wouldn’t have predicted when practice started in the fall.
“I probably wouldn’t have,” he said. “That says something about our kids. They’ve made this a program; they’ve kept it going and kept what we’ve built going. But, yeah, I didn’t know what we’d be and I’m tickled to death to be 12-3.
“It’s a lot of fun, being in the league race this late. Coming into the year, I didn’t know if we’d have an opportunity to be fighting for a league title at this point in the season. We might as well keep fighting for it now.”
Arlington forced McComb (11-4, 4-2 BVC) into 20 turnovers, with five coming in a key stretch in the opening minutes of the second half.
Kathryn Jolliff, who scored all nine of her points in the second half, got things going with a 3-pointer.
Dani Heaster knocked down two pairs of free throws after the Panthers turned the ball over, Jordyn Webb hit a mid-range jumper after another McComb miscue, and Madi Mains drained a trey.
By the time McComb’s Emily Clymer hit a 10-footer late in the third quarter, Arlington had flipped a 21-18 McComb halftime advantage into a 31-21 lead.
“It comes down to a couple things,” McComb coach Jeremy Herr said.
“So far, every team has had a different game plan for us, because they don’t press us. With the exception of the fourth quarter against New Riegel, we’ve shredded every press that’s been thrown against us.
“That being said, in the halfcourt set when other teams play a pressure man, it just seems that we can’t get into a rhythm. We’re not aggressive enough without the ball.
“We don’t cut hard enough or screen hard enough. Arlington played a good, hard halfcourt man against us, and that’s what we have to work on to get better.”
The fact that Arlington kept things close at hand was a big key, too.
Heaster, the Red Devils’ top player, missed the second quarter after picking up her second foul with less than a minute to go in the first. McComb did turn an 11-7 deficit into that halftime lead, but it wasn’t enough.
“I had confidence that my teammates could keep us in the game,” said Heaster, who led the Red Devils with 18 points.
Newlove admitted he though his team was in a bind when Heaster hit the bench.
“We got off to a good start, and Dani is our best defender,” he said. “We knew Clymer is good, and it kind of messed up our matchups. We wanted to get Dani the ball on offense, too, so it disrupted us.
“I thought we still, for the most part, hung around. We kept it close. I was disappointed to be down at half, but with Dani on the bench for most of it the girls did a good job.”
Clymer was a force for McComb. She had 14 points by halftime, and finished with a game-high 23 to go with 10 rebounds.
She was, however, the only Panther to score more than five points. Jenna Huffman had 10 rebounds.
“Clymer is good,” Newlove said. “She had 23, and she worked for most of them.
“I thought our defense was phenomenal all night. We didn’t let them have anything easy. We were intelligent on defense, and we rebounded.”
Arlington built a 34-29 lead after three quarters and hit 10 of 14 free throws in the fourth quarter to seal the victory. Jordan Webb scored 10 points and Madi Mains nine in a balanced attack.
“We’ve had some good wins, and we just need to come prepared for Arcadia next week and keep it going,” Heaster said.
McComb lost its second straight league game and dropped into a tie, along with Leipsic and Pandora-Gilboa, at one game behind the three BVC leaders.
“We’re looking for that character-building game where we can pull one out,” Herr said. “I think we’ll have opportunities, because Ada on Saturday is no slouch and we have Pandora next week and that will be a tough game.
“I’m not worried about competition, I know we have plenty of it. At this point, the BVC championship is looking like a slim chance. We obviously have to win out and hope some things happen, and I really don’t like being in that position. I liked where we were two weeks ago, alone on top.”
Arlington (12-3, 5-1 BVC)
Webb 4-1—10, Jolliff 2-3—9, Heaster 4-10—18. Mains 3-0—9, Insley 0-1—1, Dillon 1-2—4, O’Rear 0-0—0, Johnson 0-0—0. TOTALS: 14-37 17-24—51.
McComb (11-4, 4-2 BVC)
Reed 1-1—4, Herr 1-0—2, Dee 2-1—5, Clymer 9-5—23, Buck 1-0—2, Huffman 0-2—2, Beverly 2-0—5. TOTALS: 16-45 9-18—43.
Arlington 11 8 16 17 — 51
McComb 8 13 8 14 — 43
3-Point GOALS: Arlington 6-12 (Mains 3, Jolliff 2, Webb); McComb 2-16 (Reed & Beverly).
rebounds: Arlington 27 (Insley 6); McComb 34 (Clymer & Huffman 10).
turnovers: Arlington 19, McComb 20.
junior varsity: Arlington, 35-28.