JACKSON, Ohio — The Lady Eagles certainly had plenty to celebrate on Thursday night.
The second-seeded Eastern girls basketball team secured its spot in the Division IV district final — the eighth consecutive season EHS is making the trip to the round of 32 — as the Lady Eagles soared to a 67-45 victory over third-seeded Glenwood New Boston, at Jackson High School.
The Lady Eagles (20-3) — who’ve reached the 20-win milestone for the first time since their state championship season three years ago — never relinquished the lead after taking the advantage at 3-1, at the 5:16 mark of the opening quarter.
Eastern held Glenwood (14-6) to just four points over the first eight minutes of the game, as the Lady Eagles opened a seven-point lead by the end of the first period.
Eastern’s stifling defense carried over to the second period, as the Lady Tigers managed just five points in the stanza.
The EHS offense picked up the pace in the second quarter, shooting at a 44.4 percent pace, after hitting just 29.4 percent of field goal tries in the opening stanza.
Eastern enjoyed a 32-to-12 rebounding advantage with 12 second chance opportunities over the first 16 minutes of play, and the Lady Eagles took a 30-9 lead into the break.
The Lady Tigers — who shot at a 13 percent pace from the field, in the first half — snapped out of the slump in the opening 3:15 of the second half, as GHS cut its deficit to 18 points, at 38-20.
EHS answered with an 11-0 run and the Lady Eagle lead reached a game-high 29 points, at 49-20, with 2:18 left in the third.
Glenwood cut its deficit to 26 points, at 54-28, by the end of the third. The Lady Tigers began the fourth quarter with a 10-to-2 run, trimming the EHS lead back to 18 points, at 56-38.
Three straight EHS two-pointers expanded the Lady Eagle advantage to 24 points, at 62-38, with three minutes to play. Glenwood made it to within 17 points, at 62-45, with 1:45 to play, but Eastern capped off the 67-45 victory with a 5-0 run.
“We had our scouting report and we knew what they wanted to do,” first-year Eastern head coach Jacob Parker said. “The girls executed the game plan perfectly, I couldn’t ask them to execute a defensive game plan any better. At the end, I thought both teams were fatigued and that’s what good defense does. That’s how tournament games should look.”
For the game, EHS claimed a 51-to-24 advantage on the glass, with a 20-to-10 edge in offensive boards.
“We set a goal, we said ‘this is what we have to have and less than that is unacceptable’,” Coach Parker said of his team’s rebounding. “The girls answered the challenge and went right after it.”
Glenwood committed 15 turnovers in the setback, while Eastern gave the ball away 18 times. Ten of the Lady Eagle turnovers came in the final quarter.
Eastern assisted on 19 buckets in the win, 10 more than the Lady Tigers. Both teams rejected four shots, and GHS held a narrow 7-to-6 advantage in steals.
For the game, Eastern shot 28-of-62 (45.2 percent) from the field, including just 1-of-13 (7.7 percent) from three-point range. Meanwhile, GHS was 15-of-56 (26.8 percent) from the field, including 5-of-24 (20.8 percent) from deep. Both teams sank 10 free throws, Eastern in 16 tries and Glenwood in 18 attempts.
EHS senior Laura Pullins led the charge for the victors, posting a 22 points on seven two-pointers and an 8-of-12 performance from the charity stripe. Pullins earned a double-double with 16 rebounds, while dishing out four assists and posting team-highs of four steals and three blocked shots.
EHS junior Elizabeth Collins also marked a double-double, pouring in 19 points on nine two-pointers and one free throw, to go with a game-best 17 boards. Collins assisted on five buckets and also rejected a shot for the Green, White and Gold.
Eastern sophomore point guard Jess Parker scored 14 points — including the Lady Eagles’ lone trifecta — and fell just one rebound shy of a double-double.
Alyson Bailey scored eight points and dished out five assists for the victors, while Kelsey Casto chipped in with four points.
Mariah Buckley led the Lady Tigers with 22 points, followed by Ali Hamilton with 13. Kaylee Stone scored eight points in the setback, while Taylen Hickman chipped in with two points.
Hamilton and Stone each grabbed seven rebounds to lead GHS, while Buckley, Stone, Hamilton and Lexus Oiler each assisted on two buckets apiece. Buckley and Hamilton led the Glenwood defense with three steals and three blocks respectively.
Glenwood will have to say goodbye to seniors Madison Salisbury and Kayla Phipps, but will have a chance to return all five starters. This was the first district appearance for the Lady Tigers since 2010.
Eastern will look for its eighth district championship — its first since 2014 — on Thursday at JHS, against top-seeded Portsmouth Notre Dame, at 6:15. The Lady Titans advanced past Federal Hocking by a 48-30 count, in an earlier game, on Thursday at Jackson High School.
“It’s a good feeling, we’ve been getting after it in practice” Coach Parker said. “We’re taking it one game at a time. We’re proud to get this win, we’ll use the time to prepare for Portsmouth Notre Dame, and hopefully bring the district home.”
Eastern and Notre Dame last met in 2015 district semifinal, which the Lady Eagles won by a 52-43 count in overtime.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.