TUPPERS PLAINS, Ohio — Looking for a sure-fire way to stop a comeback attempt? Free throws and defense worked just fine for the Lady Eagles.
The Eastern girls basketball team enjoyed a 14-point at halftime lead in Thursday’s non-league tilt at ‘The Nest’, but Warren fought-back to within two possessions, late in the second half. The Lady Eagles sank 6-of-6 fourth quarter free throws and forced four turnovers in the finale, allowing the hosts to claim a 53-44 win.
Eastern (2-0) never trailed in the game, starting the evening with a 7-1 run. Warren (2-1) rattled off six straight points and tied the game at seven, the only tie of the contest. The Lady Eagles outscored WHS 9-to-2 over the remainder of the opening period, making the hosts’ lead 16-9.
Eastern — which made 6-of-10 field goals, including 3-of-4 trifectas in the second period — doubled its first quarter lead and took a 32-18 advantage into the half.
In the opening 16 minutes, the Lady Eagles shot 50 percent from both the field (12-of-24) and three-point range (5-of-10). EHS also sank 3-of-4 first half free throw attempts. Meanwhile, Warren was 9-of-14 from the charity stripe and 4-of-17 from the field, including just 1-of-7 from beyond the arc. The teams were tied at 14 in the rebounding category, at the half, and Eastern had committed two fewer turnovers.
Eastern’s hot touch went cold after the half, as the Lady Eagles went scoreless for over five minutes of the third quarter, and WHS cut trimmed the EHS lead to 32-24. The Lady Eagles snapped out of it and outscored Warren 6-to-5 over the remainder of the third, making the hosts’ lead 38-29 with eight minutes left in regulation.
Five minutes into the finale, the Lady Warriors had only trimmed Eastern’s lead by one, but a trifecta by Warren’s Molly McCutcheon trifecta with 2:41 left cut the EHS lead to 46-41. EHS sophomore Jess Parker extended the lead back to eight with a three-pointer of her own, but McCutcheon converted an old-fashioned three-pointer with 2:10 left. Warren never scored again, however, and Eastern senior Laura Pullins put the final touches on the 53-44 win, sinking 4-of-4 free throws in the final two minutes.
“That’s a very good team, I think Warren is going to do a lot of good things,” first-year Eastern head coach Jacob Parker said. “I believe that, again tonight, our defense led our offense. We played hard-nosed defense, at times we might have let a few things go, but for the course of the game, I have to say it was the defensive effort that got it done.”
For the game, Eastern shot 9-of-10 (90 percent) from the free throw line and 19-of-40 (47.5 percent) from the field, including 6-of-13 (46.2 percent) from long range.
Warren made just 13-of-46 (28.2 percent) shots from the field, including 3-of-12 (25 percent) from three-point territory. The Lady Warriors were 15-of-23 (65.2 percent) from the free throw line in the game, including 4-of-7 in the final stanza.
“We weathered the storm, knocked home some foul shots and brought it home,” said Coach Parker. “We’re not ever going to be the biggest team, but if we play with heart, play strong fundamental basketball and box out, then we’ll be fine.”
Eastern was outrebounded by a narrow 26-to-25 count, but Warren enjoyed a 7-to-2 edge in offensive boards. The Green, White and Gold finished with 19 turnovers in the win, while the Lady Warriors committed 14.
Laura Pullins led the Lady Eagles with a double-double effort of 16 points and 15 rebounds, to go with a game-high six assists. Elizabeth Collins poured in 10 points for the hosts, Becca Pullins added eight, while Jess Parker marked six points and five assists. Madison Williams finished with five points, Kelsey Casto added four, while Hannah Bailey and Alyson Bailey both scored two points.
Eastern’s defensive effort was led by Becca Pullins, who had two steals. Collins, Casto and Williams each blocked a shot in the win.
“We have a younger group, and sometimes I forget that,” said Coach Parker. “We have to remind them not to play in the other team’s game plan. Warren wanted to press a little bit, and we played into that for the first few minutes of the third quarter, and we turned the ball over. Unforced turnovers will kill you and that’s what allowed Warren to make a run.”
McCutcheon led Warren with 12 points and six rebounds, followed by Emily Jackson with nine points and six rebounds. Peyton Bowe scored seven points, Kate Liston added six, while Emme Bowe posted five points and finished with team-highs in assists and steals, with three of each. Katie Rauch and Caspen Ford both scored two points for WHS, while Grace Way chipped in with one point.
Eastern begins Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division play on Wednesday, when the Lady Eagles visit Federal Hocking.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.