TUPPERS PLAINS, Ohio — The Tornadoes decided to take a little revenge before they head for the postseason.
The Southern boys basketball — which fell to archrival Eastern by a 70-59 tally on Dec. 7 in Racine — avenged that setback on Friday in ‘The Nest’, defeating the host Eagles by a 54-50 in Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division play.
All-4 of the game’s lead changes came within the first eight minutes, with the Tornadoes (12-9, 10-6 TVC Hocking) ending the opening quarter with back-to-back three-pointers and an 11-7 lead.
Southern’s lead grew as high as nine points, at 19-10, in the first three minutes of the second quarter, but a 13-to-4 run by the Eagles (11-10, 8-7) tied the game at 23 with 22 seconds left in the half. The guests went into the break with a 25-23 lead, however, as Cole Steele sank a buzzer-beater for Purple and Gold.
SHS scored eight of the first 10 points of the second half, before an EHS three-pointer cut the margin to 33-28 with five minutes left in the third. Southern — which didn’t commit a turnover and shot 60 percent from the field in the third quarter — closed the period with a 10-to-3 run and a 43-31 advantage.
Eastern fought back yet again, beginning the fourth quarter with a 16-to-4 spurt, and tying the game at 47 with a Sharp Facemyer trifecta with 2:48 to play.
The Tornadoes reestablished the lead with a Jensen Anderson three-pointer 50 seconds later, and then Weston Thorla added a two-pointer to make it a two-possession game with 1:15 to play. Eastern trimmed its deficit to three points, but Thorla and Trey McNickle both stole the ball in the final 30 seconds to help seal the 54-50 victory.
Following the contest, SHS head coach Jeff Caldwell commended his team’s resiliency and talked about key elements to the win.
“This is a big one for us,” Caldwell said. “I’m proud of our guys, because they showed resiliency tonight. We played pretty well for three quarters and then they made a run at us. Credit goes to Eastern, making that run, Sharp Facemyer had a heck of a game. Our seniors made some big shots there, Jensen hit the three and Weston hit the two to put us up five, so I’m proud of those guys for doing that.
“This is a team-win, holding them to five offensive rebounds was big tonight, and then the steals were big too. I’m proud of our guys, this is a nice win. We can take the weekend off and then we can really start getting ready for tournaments.”
Eastern head coach David Kight gave credit to the Tornadoes for the defensive game plan, and pointed out some inconsistency in the EHS offense.
“They came out and jumped in a 1-3-1, which was a good move by Coach Caldwell,” Kight said. “We were trying to get them to penetrate the gaps, find the middle of the floor, throw the diagonal, and push the ball ahead. We weren’t as aggressive as I would have liked us to have been when we came out. Anytime we did push it ahead and get the ball down by the baseline, we got good looks and scored, we just couldn’t do it consistently throughout the night to come out with the win. Hat’s off to Coach Caldwell and Southern, they came into our place, had a good game plan and got the win.”
Coach Kight also discussed his squad’s ability to battle back in the contest, and the hard work his players show.
“I told them tonight in the locker room, I don’t doubt that they play hard, they play really, really hard for us,” Kight said. “They play really hard for Coach (Matt) Simpson, for myself, and for their teammates. You get down nine and you battle back, you get down 12 in the fourth quarter and then you battle all the way back, but we never could get over the hump and get the lead. We couldn’t get the one stop when we needed it, or the one offensive rebound, and it accumulated that they made more plays down the stretch than we did.”
For the game, Southern shot 23-of-45 (51.1 percent) from the field, including 3-of-12 (25 percent) from beyond the arc, while Eastern made 20-of-32 (62.5 percent) field goal attempts, including 6-of-9 (66.7 percent) three-point tries. At the foul line, SHS was 5-of-13 (38.5 percent) and EHS was 4-of-10 (40 percent).
The hosts claimed a narrow 21-to-20 rebounding advantage, despite Southern winning the offensive glass by a 9-to-5 count. The Purple and Gold won the turnover battle, committing 13 and forcing 19. SHS finished with team totals of 17 steals, 13 assists and two rejections, while the Eagles combined for 17 assists, six steals and three blocked shots.
Anderson led Southern with 19 points, including all-3 of the team’s three-pointers. McNickle scored 13 points, while recording team-highs of eight rebounds, six assists and five steals. Arrow Drummer had 11 points and seven rebounds in the win, Austin Baker added seven points, while Thorla and Steele each scored two.
Sharp Facemyer led Eastern with 18 points on six trifectas, to go with a team-best two steals. Mason Dishong marked 13 points and seven boards for the hosts, Garrett Barringer added 12 points, while Colton Reynolds scored five. Blaise Facemyer rounded out the EHS total with two points, to go with a game-best seven assists.
The Tornadoes will have a long break before returning to action in the sectional final on Feb. 27 at Meigs High School. Southern will try to avenge a pair of regular season setbacks to Waterford, and Coach Caldwell believes the long-layoff will benefit his squad.
“Honestly, we need to get healthy,” Caldwell said. “We have some guys who have been battling some sickness and little minor aches, which a lot of people go through this time of year. We’re going to really value that week to get everybody healthy, get some good practices in, and prepare. Some guys probably need to get their conditioning back, where they’ve been under the weather, so I think the break is going to be a good thing for us.”
Eastern will wrap up its regular season in a rescheduled game at Trimble on Wednesday. The Tomcats clinched at least a share of the TVC Hocking Division title on Friday.
Prior to game, Eastern celebrated senior night, honoring Sharp Facemyer, Blaise Facemyer, Isaiah Fish, Dylan Creath, Noah Browning and Evin Bauer for playing in ‘The Nest’ for the final time.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.