Third-seeded Ellender had no trouble Thursday night dismantling No. 30 Belaire 96-46 in the Class 4A first-round girls basketball playoffs.

Four Lady Patriots scored in double figures led by Nikkia Johnson with 24 points, Trastasia Hester with 15, Tanisha Hester with 14 and Kira Coleman with 10.

Keriayuanna Thigpen led the Lady Bengals with 21 points, followed by Surnee Lnidsey with 15, and Carlisa Bell with 12.

Ellender will host No. 14 Minden in the second-round next week.

“We wanted to try to make them handle the ball all the way down the floor and put pressure on them,” Ellender head coach Kenneth Dixon said. “We didn’t have to foul or anything. Just use our quickness and speed to wear them down. I was pleased but we still have to be smart.”

“Overall, we did pretty well. We’re young and experienced,” Belaire head coach Ella Reado said. “I coached against Coach Dixon when I was at Capitol. So knew exactly what we were getting into. I knew they were going to feisty, disciplined and listen to everything he says.”

Ellender (24-7) sprinted out to a 13-2 advantage, capped by back-to-back 3-pointers from Trastasia Hester and Johnson. Then the Lady Patriots scored 15 unanswered toward the end of the first quarter. A three from Terris McKay (nine points) and consecutive three-point plays from Johnson and Hester built a 28-6 lead.

The Lady Patriots defense didn’t press as hard usual, but still forced Belaire (11-13) into numerous turnovers for transition baskets. Ellender ended the half with 11 straight points from Tanisha Hester and Coleman to go ahead 55-16 at intermission.

“They were playing a 2-3 zone. We pushed the ball down the floor quicker before they setup,” Dixon explained. We moved the ball around and got a few layups. We have to shoot better from the outside though. We have to take our time and do it right.”

“They’re quick. We couldn’t stop them on defense because they were moving,” Reado said. “They’re scrappy. They were cutting, setting the pick, rolling off the pick and popping the threes. There’s not too much you do with that. We were just hoping they miss and get the rebound.”

Ellender continued to build its advantage in the second half. They went on a 23-2 run by attacking the rim and pounding the glass for second-chance points. They took their largest lead early in the fourth quarter 87-30.

“We had a great defensive effort. After we built a 20-point lead, we sort of backed off and played half court,” Dixon said. “We still have to play a little bit smarter because a couple of girls got in foul trouble.”

“We couldn’t get off shots. We were anxious and needed to settle down,” Reado said. “Once we settled down and get some shots in, we felt more comfortable.”

Despite the blowout win, Dixon hopes his squad corrects their mistakes as they advance in the tournament.

“We can’t be perfect, but we can learn from our mistakes, especially the fouling,” he said. “We were in good position, but we were reaching. In crucial games, I need them not to do that with the game on the line.”