ROCKSPRINGS, Ohio — A perfect start to the postseason.
The Eastern girls basketball team scored the first 15 points of Saturday’s Division IV sectional final inside Larry R. Morrison Gymnasium, on the campus of Meigs High School, and the second-seeded Lady Eagles soared to a 59-28 victory over the seventh-seeded Ironton St. Joe Lady Flyers.
Eastern (16-6) — which claimed its 11th straight sectional crown with the win — didn’t allow a field goal in the opening period and led 19-1 eight minutes into play.
“I was very pleased with the start,” EHS head coach John Burdette said. “They came out and played good defense. They were focused and ready to go.”
The Lady Flyers missed their first 18 field goal attempts of the contest and trailed 22-1 by the 4:08 mark of the second period, when they finally made a two-pointer. Eastern forced 11 turnovers in the opening half and led 30-to-8 at the break.
St. Joe — which made just 2-of-23 field goal attempts in the first half — found its offense in the third quarter, sinking 6-of-15 tries from the field en route to 15 points. Eastern scored 13 points in the third quarter and led 43-23 headed into the finale.
The Lady Eagles outscored the Purple and Gold by a 16-to-5 clip in the fourth quarter to seal the 59-28 win and their 24th sectional title.
“We focus a lot on the tournament throughout the season,” Burdette said. “I told them ‘we’re here, now your season really starts and let’s see how long it can go’. I’m ready for the district and I think they are.”
EHS junior Laura Pullins led the Lady Eagles with 23 points, six rebounds and three assists, while freshman Rebecca Pullins chipped in with nine points. Jess Parker scored eight points, Elizabeth Collins and Hannah Bailey each recorded four points, with Hannah Bailey marking three assists. Alyson Bailey recorded three points and three assists, Kelsey Casto added three points and six rebounds, while Madison Kuhn and Hannah Hill both scored two points in the win.
The freshman trio of Parker, Alyson Bailey and Rebecca Pullins led the EHS defense with three steals each, while Collins blocked three shots and Laura Pullins rejected two.
The Lady Eagles shot 10-of-13 (76.9 percent) from the free throw line and 23-of-57 (40.4 percent) from the field, including 3-of-14 (21.4 percent) from beyond the arc. As a team the Green and Gold had 19 defensive rebounds, 14 offensive boards, 15 assists, 10 steals, five blocks and 10 turnovers.
Lynsey Booker led the Purple and Gold offensively with 10 points, followed by Morgan Turner, Alyson Johnson and Ashlee Blankenship with four each. Ashley Bartrum scored three points, Megan Riley added two, while Natalie Heabrelin rounded out the ISJ scoring with one marker.
Riley led the Lady Flyers on the glass with 10 rebounds, while Johnson finished with six boards and three assists. Riley also led the defensive effort for St. Joe, recording two steals and two blocks.
For the game, St. Joe shot 8-of-12 (66.7 percent) from the free throw line and 10-of-55 (18.2 percent) from the field, including 0-13 from three-point range. Collectively, the Lady Flyers marked 20 defensive rebounds, 11 offensive rebounds, five assists, five steals, four blocks and 21 turnovers.
Eastern also defeated St. Joe in the regular season, by a 60-36 count in Tuppers Plains on December 23.
“I don’t take anybody lightly in the tournament,” Burdette said. “It really didn’t matter if we played them earlier or not, because with tournament time, everything is different.”
The Lady Eagles will travel to Jackson High School for the district final on Saturday, where the Green and Gold will take on third-seeded Leesburg Fairfield.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.