PARK HILLS – Karissa Belfield has assumed a key defensive role with the Central girls basketball team as fellow seniors Skyler Amonette and Caitlyn Holmes typically handle a majority of the scoring.
But the top-seeded Lady Rebels needed an added boost on Thursday while attempting to turn back a persistent Arcadia Valley challenge throughout the first half.
Belfield responded with several timely shots, and notched a career-high 19 points as Central soon pulled away for a 70-52 triumph in the semifinal round of its annual Christmas Tournament.
Skyler Amonette shared game-high honors with 20 points, and dished out seven assists as the Lady Rebels advanced to Saturday’s title game in the Central Christmas Tournament.
Arcadia Valley was never a threat after falling behind Central 22-4 four weeks ago in Fredericktown, but clearly appeared more calm and confident in the rematch.
The fifth-seeded Lady Tigers only trailed 43-37 after junior guard Josie Landrum attacked in transition for a conventional 3-point play midway through the third quarter.
Belfield answered with consecutive baskets, however, on a short jumper and fast-break layup, and the vaunted Central defense allowed just two points over a six-minute span.
Amonette drove end to end for another finish moments after AV inadvertently deflected a rebound into its own basket near the close of the period.
Caitlyn Holmes, who compiled 18 points, six rebounds and four steals, secured a putback field goal and free throw that Kaley Kimball followed for a 57-39 lead with 6:20 to play.
Central (11-1) will meet tourney newcomer Steelville at 6 p.m. on Saturday in pursuit of its fifth holiday title in a row. Those teams met last February in the Class 3, District 3 final.
Makayla Moise powered Arcadia Valley (5-6) with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Her effort was magnified as foul trouble plagued post teammate Jaesa Brockes from the outset.
Katie Whited tallied 18 points, including a tying steal and layup at 12-12. She later reached far ahead to reel in a forceful pass, and kept racing through the open paint for an uncontested layup.
Belfield restored an 18-14 Central edge with two baskets to close the first quarter, and Holmes made a spinning finish around Landrum, who had blocked her from behind earlier on.
Moise coaxed in a congested shot from the low block to create a 22-22 deadlock. Avery Norris netted a putback and Belfield had a steal and layup on the Lady Rebels’ next two possessions.
Arcadia Valley countered with a 7-0 spurt after Central had established a sudden 32-24 advantage, but Holmes dished to Belfield for a 3-point play in transition for a 37-33 halftime margin.
Callie Thurston grabbed nine rebounds for the Lady Rebels, who committed just one turnover after the intermission. Arcadia Valley ended the game with 19 miscues.
Landrum briefly left the action following a rough collision with Holmes in the lane, but returned to finish with eight points and five assists.
Steelville topped South iron 52-39 in the other girls semifinal at Central behind 17 points from Hannah Cottrell and 16 more from Abby Booker.
The contest was tied 33-33 late in the third quarter, but the third-seeded Lady Cardinals closed with a solid defensive effort and 19-6 run.
Steelville opened the contest with consecutive 3-pointers by Cottrell and Booker, and buried 10-of-18 attempts overall from beyond the arc.
Jada Brooks grabbed eight rebounds and equaled Ashley Mickan with 14 points each for South Iron. Michaela Ayers added 10 points.