RACINE, Ohio — A tale of two halves.
The Eastern girls basketball team managed just eight points in the first half and trailed by 10 at halftime of Monday night’s Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division showdown with Southern, but the Lady Eagles outscored the host Purple and Gold by a 26-to-10 margin after the break to seal the 34-28 victory.
Both teams started the night cold, combining to miss the game’s first 11 field goal, while committing four turnovers before the first points were on the board. Southern (10-4, 8-2 TVC Hocking) junior Faith Teaford ended the dry spell with a two-pointer off of a Jansen Wolfe assist at the 2:35 mark of the first quarter, but Eastern (10-4, 8-2) tied the game with two free throw makes by sophomore Elizabeth Collins, just 42 seconds later.
Southern reestablished the lead with 1:03 left in the first when senior Ali Deem drained a trifecta off an assist by Wolfe. The Lady Eagles pulled within one point, 5-4, by the end of the opening stanza as Collins scored on an assist by Laura Pullins.
The Lady Tornadoes scored the first five points of the second quarter, expanding their lead to 10-4 with five minutes left in the first half. The Green and Gold outscored SHS by a 4-3 clip over the next 2:30, but the Purple and Gold ended the half with five unanswered points and a 18-to-8 lead.
SHS outrebounded its guest 21-to-16 in the opening half, while both teams suffered five turnovers. Southern was 6-of-22 (27.3 percent) from the field in the opening 16 minutes, while EHS made just 3-of-23 (13.4 percent) field goal attempts. Teaford’s 10 points lead all scorers at the break, with Collins scoring all-eight of the Lady Eagles markers.
“I was just so mad in there at halftime that I had to get out,” EHS head coach John Burdette said. “I just left them with ‘let’s come out of here and see who has more heart, them or us’. I was really upset with the effort we put out until the second half.”
Out of the break Eastern went on a 9-2 run, allowing the host to make only two free throws in the 5:15 stretch. Deem’s second trifecta of the night seemed to end the Lady Eagle run, but EHS freshman Jess Parker answered with a trifecta of her own. EHS cut the deficit to one at the 1:31 mark of the third, but Southern pushed the lead back to three, 25-22, by the end of the period.
“Eastern did a nice job adjusting to what we did to them in the first half,” SHS head coach Kent Wolfe said. “They were more aggressive with the dribble, they put a lot of pressure on our guards and forwards, and we couldn’t get the ball where we needed to get it. They didn’t allow us to take advantage of our height inside.”
At the 5:31 mark of the fourth quarter, Eastern took its first lead of the game as Alyson Bailey sank a two-pointer off an assist by Laura Pullins. A three-pointer, a two-pointer and two free throws allowed the Lady Eagles to extend their advantage to 33-25 by the time Southern scored for the first time in the fourth.
The Lady Tornadoes’ first points of the finale came with 35 seconds left, as Teaford made back-to-back free throws that cut the deficit to a two-possession game at 33-27. Both teams made a free throw in the final 30 seconds, and Eastern claimed the 34-28 victory.
“That was a really good win for us,” Burdette said. “We lost to Southern the first time around and we’ve had so many personnel issues this year. For us to come back out of it, I really appreciate the tenacity that we had in the second half.”
Southern — which committed 15 of its 20 turnovers after halftime — shot 3-of-11 from the free throw line in the final stanza, while missing all 13 of its fourth quarter field goal attempts.
“Our girls can play defense when they put their heads on their shoulders and want to play defense,” Burdette said. “We have a hard time doing that sometimes, but when they do it then they’re pretty good. They can play some ball when they decide to, but they have to play for 32 minutes, or at least 26. Most teams don’t go for 30, just give us a good, hard 26.”
Collins led the Lady Eagles with 12 points and nine rebounds, followed by Alyson Bailey and Rebecca Pullins with seven points each. Parker scored six points for the Green and Gold, while Laura Pullins marked two points, nine rebounds, four assists, five steals and three blocks. Bailey had three steals and a block on defense for the guests.
For the game, Eastern shot 6-of-15 (40 percent) from the free throw line and 13-of-49 (26.5 percent) from the field, including 2-of-10 (20 percent) from three-point range. As a team the Green and Gold had 30 rebounds — eight of which were offensive — nine assists, nine steals, five blocked shots and nine turnovers.
Teaford paced the Purple and Gold with 14 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks, while Deem added six points. Haley Hill scored three points, added two assists and had a team-best four steals, while Sierra Cleland and Jansen Wolfe both scored two points. Wolfe had a game-high 20 rebounds, while contributing three assists, two steals and two blocks. Savannah Bailey rounded out the SHS scoring with one point in the setback.
Southern was 10-of-25 (40 percent) from the free throw line and 8-of-41 (19.5 percent) from the field, including 2-of-4 (50 percent) from beyond the arc. As a team the Purple and Gold had 30 defensive rebounds, 13 offensive boards, six assists, nine steals, six blocks and 20 turnovers.
“We have to make foul shots,” Coach Wolfe said. “You can’t be 10-for-25 from the free throw line and miss layups against a good team like Eastern. We had our best foul shooters at the line and we just didn’t convert our free throws. It is so frustrating that against Miller we shot 74 percent and tonight we’re 10-of-25 in our gym.”
The Lady Tornadoes — who had won three straight games prior to Monday — defeated EHS on December 3, by a 60-45 count at ‘The Nest’. This is the second straight year EHS and SHS have split regular season meetings.
“That was a tournament kind of game and it does us good,” Coach Wolfe said. “It was a hard-fought game and it was really difficult to score. This was a tough one to swallow and our kids are hurting a little bit. We have 48 hours to get back in the right frame of mind and try to take care of some business. We play South Gallia on Thursday and we’ve got to have two good practices to be ready.”
Southern hosts the Lady Rebels on Thursday and will try to sweep the Red and Gold, as the Lady Tornadoes won the first meeting by a 54-15 count on December 7, in Mercerville.
Eastern — which defeated Miller 59-33 on December 7, in Hemlock — will look to sweep the Lady Falcons on Thursday when MHS visits ‘The Nest’.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.