TUPPERS PLAINS, Ohio — The season is still young, but the Lady Eagles took a huge step toward a league title Thursday night.
The Eastern girls basketball team moved into sole possession of first place in the Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division with a 65-36 victory over guest Waterford.
The Lady Cats (7-3, 7-1 TVC Hocking) held the early 7-4 edge through the first three minutes of play but the Lady Eagles (9-0, 7-0) closed the opening quarter with an 8-to-4 spurt to take the lead.
Waterford regained the lead at the 5:41 mark of the second quarter at 16-15. Eastern got things turned around quickly and outscored WHS 17-to-3 over the remainder of the half to take the 32-19 lead into the break.
“When we came out in the first we never really had our heads in what we were doing,” Eastern coach John Burdette said. “Waterford was ready to play, they came out in the first quarter and played really well and then our girls woke up and started playing, basically.”
The three-point shot was key for both teams in the first half, as Waterford and Eastern each made three triples.
“I though in the first half we played really well but had a couple of blown assignments,” Waterford coach Jerry Close said. “We left them open for three-pointers and that was the difference at halftime.”
The Lady Eagles came out of halftime with renewed defensive intensity and did not allow a Lady Cats field goal until the 3:29 mark of the third quarter, while stretching the lead to 42-20. WHS hit two three-pointers in the third quarter but it was Eastern took the 51-28 advantage into the finale.
Six of Waterford’s eight fourth quarter points came from the free throw line, while the Lady Eagles marked 14 points in the fourth to claim the 65-36 victory.
“We’ve beat Waterford like this in the past and then we go up there and it turns around real fast,” John Burdette said.
Eastern was led by senior guard Jenna Burdette with 21 points, including a perfect 6-of-6 from the free throw line, and seven assists. Jordan Parker chipped in with 15 points, including a pair of three-pointers, while assisting on five buckets.
Freshman Laura Pullins had 11 points in the victory, Erin Swatzel had eight, and Katie Keller added six. Maddie Rigsby rounded out the Lady Eagles total with four points in the win.
Eastern shot 27-of-63 (42.9 percent) from the field, including 4-of-15 (26.7 percent) from beyond the arc. EHS was 7-of-8 (87.5 percent) from the free throw line.
The Lady Eagles had 32 rebounds, led by Keller with nine, Burdette with six and Swatzel with five. Burdette led the EHS defense with four steals, followed by Pullins with three. Keller had had game-high three blocks. Eastern committed 14 turnovers, while Waterford had 30.
Dani Drayer led the Lady Cats with 21 points, including 21 from beyond the arc. Mariah Starkey had five points, Taylor Hilverding and Randee Seevers each had three, while Regan Porter finished with two. Hannah Daily and Madison Sury each marked one point in the setback.
“Dani caught fire and shot the ball really well for Waterford,” said John Burdette. “She’s a good ball player and good shooter and we have to make sure to get that kinda stuff stopped. We talked about it before the game, just make sure we don’t let the players that can beat us beat us.”
Waterford shot 10-of-35 (28.6 percent) from the field, 5-of-21 (23.8 percent) from three-point range and 11-of-22 (50 percent) from the free throw line. Daily led WHS with six of the team’s 20 rebounds, while Hilverding had a team-best three assists.
Eastern and Waterford have shared two of the last three TVC Hocking titles. Last season The Lady Eagles defeated Waterford 76-39 in Tuppers Plains but fell to the Lady Cats by a count of 63-46 in Washington County later in the season.
“That’s a good team,” said Close. “Our girls played really well in the first half, then Eastern went on a run in the third quarter and we never answered. We have a lot of things to fix and we have players that need to step up and be assertive. We play them again in a month and we will be better.”