ROCKSPRINGS, Ohio — A fabulous 14th, either way you look at it.
The Eastern girls basketball team claimed its 14th victory of the season and its 14 consecutive sectional title on Saturday in Meigs High School’s Larry R. Morrison Gymnasium, with the second-seeded Lady Eagles defeating No. 7 seed Miller by a 56-41 tally.
Eastern (14-8) never trailed in the contest, scoring the first four points, before the Lady Falcons (11-10) tied it up at four. The Lady Eagles scored 13 of the next 15 points and led by double digits, at 17-6, with 41 seconds left in the opening quarter.
Miller scored the last two points of the first quarter and the first two of the second, cutting the EHS lead to 17-10. The Lady Eagles claimed eight of the next nine points, however, and led 25-11 by the midway point of the period. The teams each scored six points over the rest of the half, and Eastern took a 31-17 lead into the break.
The Lady Falcons opened the second half with a three-pointer, but Eastern claimed the next four points and led 35-20 with 4:50 left in the third. MHS closed the quarter with a 9-to-5 spurt, cutting the Lady Eagle lead to 40-29 with eight minutes to play.
Miller — which had three players foul out in the fourth — cut its deficit to single digits twice in the opening minute of the stanza, but never made it closer than nine. Eastern led by as many as 18 points down the stretch, hitting 10-of-14 free throws in the fourth quarter to help seal the 56-41 victory and the sectional crown.
Following the program’s 14th straight sectional title, third-year EHS head coach Jacob Parker noted that each championship is still special and talked about keys to the victory, including clutch free throw shooting.
“It means a lot, I think a lot of programs take certain things for granted, but every championship is great,” Parker said. “I love being a part of them, and I love getting the opportunity to go back to Jackson, it’s a fun place to play.
“I’m proud of the girls, they played hard, they knew their assignments and played a good game. We’re shooting a lot of free throws right now, so I’m very glad we’re hitting those shots. I thought we shot the ball at a decent percentage today, and that’s what you have to do come tournament time.”
For the game, EHS was 25-of-33 (75.8 percent) from the free throw line, where Miller was 10-of-25 (40 percent). Eastern made 14-of-50 (28 percent) field goal attempts, including 1-of-13 (7.7 percent) three-point tries, while MHS was 14-of-47 (29.8 percent) from the field, including 3-of-15 (20 percent) from deep.
The Lady Eagles claimed a 36-to-30 rebounding edge, with each team grabbing 10 offensive boards. The victors combined for 12 steals, eight assists and two rejections, while Miller ended up with eight assists, six steals and one block.
The Lady Eagle offense was led by Alyson Bailey with 18 points, featuring a 10-of-12 performance from the free throw line. Jess Parker made the team’s lone three-pointer and finished with 13 points, to go along with team-highs of seven rebounds and five assists.
Kennadi Rockhold came up with nine points and six rebounds, Kelsey Casto contributed eight points to the winning cause, Olivia Barber added six points and six rebounds, while Whitney Durst chipped in with two points.
Eastern’s defensive effort was led by Parker and Rockhold with three steals apiece, followed by Jaymie Basham with a steal and a block.
Ashley Spencer led Miller with 11 points, followed by Sophia Compston with eight points and seven rebounds. Askya McFann, Brooklyn Wilson and Josie Crabtree had six points apiece in the setback, Alaina Boyden scored three, while Autumn McFann came in with one point. Compston led the MHS defense with three steals and a block.
Eastern also defeated Miller twice in Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division play in the regular season, winning 50-44 on Nov. 29 in Meigs County, and 49-41 on Jan. 10 in Perry County.
In Thursday’s Division IV district semifinal at Jackson High School, Eastern will face third-seeded Portsmouth Clay.
Coach Parker noted that the Lady Eagles will have some idea of what their facing, and will continue doing with what it took to get to districts.
“We’re not going to change a whole lot,” Parker said. “We’re going to be true to what we do, play tough-nosed defense. I have some good guys who went and watched the other sectional match, so we’ll have some information. We’re just going to keep trying to do what we do best.”
Clay advanced to the district following a 57-50 victory over sixth-seeded Western on Saturday.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.