ROCKSPRINGS, Ohio — Maybe 13 isn’t an unlucky number after all.
The Eastern girls basketball team claimed its 13th consecutive Division IV sectional title on Thursday at Meigs High School, as the fourth-seeded Lady Eagles defeated No. 5 seed South Webster by a 54-42 tally.
Eastern (15-7) scored the opening three points of the night, but surrendered the next seven to the Lady Jeeps (13-8). After a five-minute scoreless drought, the Lady Eagles ended the period with a 9-to-4 run and a 12-11 lead.
The Lady Eagles never trailed again, beginning the second quarter with an 8-to-1 spurt. South Webster answered with a 8-to-4 spurt, however, trimming the EHS lead to four points, at 24-20, by the end of the half.
Eastern’s best period of the game was the third, as it outscored SWHS by a 17-to-7 count, extending the advantage to 41-27 by the end of the stanza.
A 7-to-3 run to begin the fourth quarter gave the Lady Eagles their largest lead of the night, at 50-30, with 5:00 left in regulation. Eastern didn’t make another field goal in the game, but never allowed its lead to be cut lower than 11 on its way to the 54-42 victory.
“We challenged them, we got in there and that’s simply all we did,” second-year EHS head coach Jacob Parker said of his halftime adjustments. “We said ‘this is going to come down to the team that sticks to a game plan and doesn’t get tired.’ We wanted to take advantages when we could and run the offense when the advantages weren’t there.
“The girls did an excellent job, I’m proud of them and proud of their effort. It was a total team effort, I’m sure there was scoring all over and that’s tournament time basketball.”
For the game, Eastern shot 20-of-52 (38.5 percent) from the field, including 5-of-18 (27.8 percent) from three-point range. Meanwhile, South Webster shot 12-of-54 (22.2 percent) from the field, including 4-of-22 (18.2 percent) from deep. At the charity stripe, EHS was 9-of-19 (47.4 percent), including 6-of-9 (66.7 percent) in the fourth quarter. SWHS made 14-of-25 (56 percent) foul shots in the loss.
The Lady Jeeps won the rebounding battle by a 37-to-35 count, including 16-to-9 on the offensive end. Both teams turned the ball over 16 times, with SWHS picking up a 7-to-6 edge in steals. In the win, Eastern held advantages of 16-to-8 in assists and 5-to-4 in blocked shots.
The Lady Eagle offense was led by senior Madison Williams with 16 points, 10 of which came in the third quarter. Williams made one three-pointer and dished out a game-high five assists, while leading the EHS defense with three steals and three rejections.
EHS junior Jess Parker hit a game-high three trifectas and finished with 14 points, while senior Elizabeth Collins marked 12 points and nine boards. Olivia Barber had five points and a game-best 11 rebounds in the win, Kaitlyn Hawk added three points on a triple, while Alyson Bailey and Kennadi Rockhold chipped in with two points apiece.
South Webster was paced by Kelsi Montgomery with 12 points, eight of which came in the fourth quarter. Ellie Jo Johnson — who led the SWHS defense with two steals and a rejection — had 10 points, nine rebounds and four assists in the setback.
Madison Cook marked eight points and nine rebounds for the Lady Jeeps, while Avery Zempter came up with seven points. The SWHS total was rounded out by Karli Montgomery and Rose Stephens with three and two points respectively.
This is the 26th sectional title in Eastern girls basketball history. The Lady Eagles’ 13th consecutive district semifinal appearence will be at Jackson High School on Saturday, Feb. 24. EHS will battle against top-seeded Portsmouth Notre Dame, which defeated Lucasville Valley by a 57-27 margin on Thursday at Northwest High School.
“I’m not going to take anything for granted, I’m loving it,” Coach Parker said. “I’m going to enjoy it, we have nine days to prepare for Notre Dame. We played them early, they’re a very tough team. I think with a few things that we’ve noticed from scouting, it should be a fun game.
“We’re going to work heavily on taking care of the ball and probably some situational stuff. At this point in the year the girls just have to come together, that’s the biggest thing we’re preaching. I think we shot the ball maybe the best we have all year, we’re peaking right at tournament time and it’s a fun thing to be a part of.”
On December 23 in Portsmouth, the Lady Titans defeated the Lady Eagles by a 56-41 count. Eastern has knocked Notre Dame out of the tournament three times in the last five years, including in last season’s district final.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.
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