JACKSON, Ohio — Defense wins championships … or at least it helps you get there.
The Eastern girls basketball team limited Manchester to six made field goals while advancing to its third straight district championship game following a 64-27 victory in a Division IV southeast district semifinal contest at Jackson High School.
The top-seeded Lady Eagles (20-4) showed some jitters early on, as the fifth-seeded Lady Greyhounds (8-13) battled through three ties and six lead changes before coming away with an 11-10 advantage after eight minutes of play.
Eastern allowed just one field goal in each of the next three periods of play, as the hosts went on a 24-4 surge in the second canto and never looked back in the 37-point triumph. EHS led by as many as 39 points in the contest.
The Lady Eagles — which finished the season No. 10 in the final D-4 Associated Press Poll — will face third-seeded South Gallia in the Division IV district final at 6 p.m. Sunday, March 3, at the Convocation Center in Athens, Ohio.
Eastern — the two-time reigning district champions with five straight district wins overall — defeated the Lady Rebels (19-5) in their two Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division matchups by scores of 63-25 and 73-44 during the regular season.
Following the game, EHS coach John Burdette spoke about getting out of Jackson with a win while punching another ticket for Ohio University.
“It’s exciting for us, for sure. Anytime you get to play a game at the Convo, it’s a big deal,” Burdette said. “We’ve played there a few times now, and we are looking forward to another one.
“Everyone’s still chipper and still getting after it. We want to keep this thing going as long as we can.”
Manchester led 2-0 and 4-3 three minutes into regulation, but EHS countered with a 7-2 spurt to claim its biggest lead of the opening canto at 10-6 with 3:08 remaining. MHS responded with a 4-0 run to pull even at 10-all with 2:01 left, then Haylee Adams sank a free throw with 48 seconds remaining to give the Lady Greyhounds their final lead of the night at 11-10.
Eastern junior Jenna Burdette netted a trifecta 28 seconds into the second canto, giving the Lady Eagles a lead it would never relinquish. That three-pointer also sparked a 6-0 run for a 16-11 cushion at the 5:53 mark.
Haylee Adams nailed a three-pointer at the 5:39 mark to get the guests back to within a possession at 16-14, but EHS retaliated with an 18-0 charge for a 34-14 edge with 13 seconds left — its biggest cushion of the first half.
Tess Burns hit a free throw with four seconds left to end a 5:34 scoreless drought, allowing MHS to cut their deficit down to 34-15 at the intermission.
The Lady Eagles held Manchester scoreless for the opening 3:46 of the third canto while going on a 7-0 run for a 41-15 edge, then closed the final 3:08 with a 10-0 spurt to secure a 51-18 edge headed into the finale.
Eastern’s largest lead of the night came at 64-25 following a basket from Taylor Palmer with 29 seconds left in regulation. The hosts closed the fourth quarter with a 13-9 run.
The Lady Eagles connected on 22-of-53 field goal attempts for 42 percent, including a 5-of-14 effort from three-point territory for 36 percent. EHS committed 19 turnovers — 13 in the first half — and also went 15-of-24 at the free throw line for 63 percent.
Jenna Burdette led Eastern with a game-high 18 points, 11 of which came during that pivotal second quarter surge. Jordan Parker was next with 15 points, followed by Savannah Hawley with 13 points and Erin Swatzel with six markers.
Katie Keller chipped in four points to the winning cause, while Taylor Palmer and Tori Goble each contributed three points. Maddie Rigsby rounded out the scoring with two markers.
Manchester — which made 3-of-9 field goal attempts in the opening period — finished the night just 6-of-32 from the floor for 19 percent, including a 2-of-13 effort from behind the arc for 15 percent. The guests committed 27 turnovers total and also went 13-of-23 at the charity stripe for 57 percent.
Haylee Adams paced Manchester with 16 points, followed by Rainelle Casey with seven markers. Tess Burns and Brett Himes rounded out the scoring with two points apiece.