ALBANY, Ohio — Maybe now Jacob Parker can finally get some sleep.
After all, it was his not-too-shabby debut — and a strong opening-day performance from his team.
The Eastern Lady Eagles, bolstered by keeping Vinton County scoreless for almost 10 minutes, amounted three leads of exactly 21 points — then fended off a furious Viking comeback bid to win 56-38 in Saturday’s Spartan Tipoff Classic at Alexander High School.
The contest marked the girls basketball season opener for both clubs, and was the Lady Eagles’ head coaching debut for Parker.
“I told the girls I haven’t slept all week,” said Parker. “For them, it’s just a game, but for me it’s my first rodeo. Walking out with the ‘W’ is definitely a better way to feel than the other side. I’m pretty pleased and happy.”
Parker should be.
The Eagles only trailed for the opening two minutes and 15 seconds, then spent the remainder of the game frustrating the Lady Vikings into 33-percent shooting (15-of-44) and 23 turnovers.
But the difference, despite the Lady Vikings canning five second-half three-pointers to get as close as 40-34 with five minutes remaining, was Eastern’s ability to keep Vinton County off the scoreboard for nine minutes and 45 seconds in the opening half.
The Vikings scored the first three points in only a minute and 15 seconds, but the Eagles answered with seven straight over the next two minutes to lead 7-3.
Vinton County never came closer than the 40-34 deficit after trailing by 21 points three times.
“I told the girls it doesn’t matter on the offensive end if you’re on or off in the shooting column. As long as you play good defense, you’re going to set yourself up to win,” said Parker. “In the first half it showed. When you play phenomenal defense like we did, it will lead to offense. And we transitioned so well. We played great defense, controlled the boards and was able to run the floor.”
Eastern amounted a 13-5 advantage after the first quarter, then extended its edge to 26-5 with 2:50 remaining before halftime.
The Lady Eagles led 30-11 at the half, then maintained cushions of 32-11 and 34-13 by the 5:48 mark of the third period.
After Vinton County’s Cassie Bentley trimmed the deficit to 7-5 with four-and-a-half minutes left in the first quarter, the Lady Vikings didn’t score again until Erin Jones’ three-pointer from the corner with 1:45 remaining in the second.
It was Vinton County’s only first-half three in nine total attempts, part of just 6-of-24 for the entire game.
Meanwhile, Madison Williams’ trifecta put the Lady Eagles in front for good, while Jess Parker and Becca Pullins popped a triple apiece in the second stanza.
Williams and Parker scored a dozen points apiece, including eight for Williams and seven for Parker in the decisive first half.
Parker then drained her second three-pointer in the fourth quarter — only 15 seconds after Jaz Sharp scored for the Lady Vikings to make it 40-34.
In fact, in the final 5:05, the Lady Eagles outscored Vinton County 16-4.
Eastern also sank its free throws, going 9-of-12 in the final canto — following a perfect 5-for-5 through the first three frames.
“That’s phenomenal for us,” said Parker. “We preach in practice all the time about foul shooting. At times, we’re not a good foul shooting team. But today, we stepped up to the line and brought it home.”
Parker and Laura Pullins each went 4-for-4, as Pullins posted five field goals for a game-high 14 points.
Pullins also tied Vinton County’s Samy Thompson for a game-high eight rebounds, as she and Williams wound up with four steals apiece.
Parker dished out five of the Lady Eagles’ 17 assists, as Williams and Pullins each collected four.
Williams went 3-of-3 at the line and Hannah Bailey 3-of-4, as Becca Pullins scored seven points and Bailey added a field goal.
Elizabeth Collins canned two field goals and Kelsey Casto one to round out the Eastern scoring.
Bentley, on five total field goals, paced Vinton County with a dozen.
Jones drained a pair of threes, while Darian Radabaugh — on two treys and a deuce — added eight points.
Eastern opens its home slate on Thursday night against non-league Warren, so hopefully Parker — between now and then — picks up his much-needed sleep.
“It was definitely exciting to be a part of,” said Parker. “There’s something about that first varsity win that just excites you a little bit.”
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106