SPRINGFIELD, NJ — The Dayton girls basketball team needed a big time performance in a big way and senior forward
Michelle Bellino was happy to lend a hand.

Bellino posted 22 points with 11 rebounds and five steals to lift Dayton to a 54-29 victory over Linden in Springfield Thursday.

Dayton (2-3) saw its two-game losing streak snapped and won its first game of the new year.

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"We had a tough loss on Tuesday, so we came into practice Wednesday really focused,” Jonathan Dayton Head Coach David Rennie said. “That’s one of the things I like about this team. They understand the need to improve each and every day.

“And they want to win and they’re very competitive, so when we have a tough game like we did on Tuesday, they wanted to come back on Wednesday and have a really good practice and they focused and it showed tonight. We played well on both ends of the floor. They came out firing right from the start, playing really aggressive on both ends of the floor.”

The Bulldogs jumped out early in front of its home crowd taking a 17-2 lead after the first quarter and a 32-5 halftime advantage to take control.

Senior Haeley Santos added eight points, five rebounds, five assists and two steals, while freshman Samantha Casey posted eight points and five rebounds in the win. Sophomore Gabriella Palermo recorded seven points, five steals, three rebounds and two assist for the Bulldogs, which is 2-2 at home thus far this season.

Rennie spoke about what his team did well in the victory.

“We played our press, our full court press a little bit more than we were able to in the past because when we press we’ve got to score.” Rennie said.“So we were putting the ball in the basket, which helps to set up the press. And then our press looked pretty good. I think it still needs some improvement, but I think that’s really what got us going early on, is we created some turnovers.

“We did a good job anticipating, we talk about deflections all the time and how it’s important to keep your hands active and get those deflections that lead to turnovers., and that’s what happened in the first half tonight. So we got some easy baskets which kind of got us warmed up and got us going offensively.”

As Rennie said, the team is still looking to replace several key starters who graduated in the past couple seasons.

“We’ve just got to keep getting better every day because we’re fitting in new pieces, and it’s going to take us a while to gel," Rennie added. "And certainly a game like this helps. Just everybody being positive and feeling good about the win and feeling like, ‘okay, everybody contributed.’

"Rather than relying on one or two people, Michelle Bellino had 22 points, which is great, but we also had three or four others that contributed with seven, eight points, getting rebounds, playing really good defense, so we got contributions from everybody who stepped on the floor in one way or another.”

The Bulldogs visit Elizabeth Saturday for a 1:00 p.m. Union County Conference (Valley Division) matchup.