VIENNA — Regardless of what she did, Bristol senior Belle Zirzow didn’t miss Monday night.
If it was a spot-up jump shot, it went in. If it was a free throw, it went in. If she caught it on the block and went to work in the paint, it went in. If it was a run-out in transition, it went in. Even if it was a contested shot in traffic while drawing contact, it still went in.
Zirzow scored 30 points, 20 of them coming in the second quarter, to lead the Panthers to a 57-29 victory over Mathews.
“We’re lucky she’s part of our program,” Bristol head coach John King said. “It’s a blessing as a coach to have a player that can make plays for you when things aren’t going well. I’ve been on the other end of the spectrum when things wouldn’t go right at all, especially when I first started coaching (at Bristol). It’s a very nice luxury to have.”
A dedicated work ethic and a passion for the game of basketball helped spur Zirzow to be the player that she is today for the Panthers (5-1), according to King.
“That started at a young age,” King said. “She works hard in practice, and she does a lot of things on her own with her parents and with her travel ball team.”
Mathews (4-5) kept things simple when it came to guarding Zirzow, sticking to its usual straight-up man-to-man defense to try to slow her down.
“I thought the girl who was guarding (Zirzow) was in good position, we just need to be better on the help side, be better in gaps and be able to help out when she does get those cuts,” Mathews head coach Stephen Sponsler said. “She was on tonight — she didn’t miss.”
On the flip side, however, the Mustangs struggled to finish in the paint against Bristol’s size and weren’t able to consistently hit outside shots to compensate.
Senior Mya Macgregor and sophomore Ava Clayton led Mathews with eight points apiece. Junior Brooke Bauer had six, while senior Bella Greenwood finished with four.
“We just have to be better,” Sponsler said. “We were missing shots and we turned the ball over too much, that’s what it boils down to.”
Despite Zirzow’s scoring performance, King said he felt like the Panthers also struggled collectively on the offensive end. Outside of Zirzow’s 30, Jaylyn Mullenax had eight points, while Brooklyn Swiger and sophomore Payton Brook each scored six.
To make up for that, he encouraged his team to push the pace and try to score in transition, which it did — forcing turnovers and getting out on the break and throwing the ball up the floor off defensive rebounds.
“I felt like if we got out in transition, beat them down the floor, we were going to get some easy baskets and we wouldn’t have to worry about running offense,” King said. “Then also scoring points off turnovers was huge for us.”
As Mathews’ defense started to key in on Zirzow more in the second half after her second-quarter outburst, the Panthers knew they’d need others to step up to score to maintain their lead.
Mullenax hit two 3-pointers in the second half and five different players other than Zirzow managed to get buckets.
“I told the girls, we can’t just stand around and watch Belle because you need to be moving and you need to be ready for the kickouts because we have some good shooters,” King said. “We’ve had a different leading scorer in almost every game, I think. So you just don’t know who it’s going to be. It could be any set of girls that come in off the bench or starters.”