JACKSON, Ohio — The little things eventually made all the difference.
Eastern committed eight more turnovers and had one less offensive rebound over the course of 32 minutes, and those extra opportunities allowed top-seeded South Webster to hold on for a 60-51 victory in a Division IV district championship girls basketball contest at Jackson High School in the Apple City.
The second-seeded Lady Eagles (17-7) — who were appearing in their seventh straight district final — shot a higher percentage from the field, both overall and from three-point range, while also claiming a 26-24 edge on the boards.
The host Lady Jeeps, however, produced 10 more shot attempts in the contest and committed only one turnover in the second half — which came with 45 seconds left in regulation.
SWHS (20-3) — by valuing its second half possessions — erased a seven-point halftime deficit by netting 13-of-25 shot attempts, resulting in a pair of 20-point quarters and a 40-24 surge down the stretch.
The Green and Gold — which committed a dozen turnovers in the first half — trailed the final 10:18 of regulation and were down by as many as 13 points (57-44) with 1:18 remaining. The guests ran off seven quick points to close back to within 57-51 with 40 seconds left, but never came closer the rest of the way.
South Webster — which also defeated the Lady Eagles in last year’s district final by a 50-35 count — earned its 10th district title in school history. The Lady Jeeps will face Waterford (24-1) at 7 p.m. Thursday in a D-4 regional semifinal at Jackson High School.
After winning the 2014 Division IV state title, the Lady Eagles have now come up short in advancing to the Sweet 16 in back-to-back seasons. EHS, however, still owns a 5-2 postseason record since capturing southeast Ohio’s only D-4 championship in girls basketball.
Then again, with two injured players, no seniors, and as many freshmen as juniors on the current roster, eighth-year EHS coach John Burdette was pleased just to see his group get to this point in the postseason — particularly against a senior-laden program like South Webster.
“Honestly, I thought it was one of the better games that we played this year. We stayed focused for longer out there tonight than we have in a lot of games in the regular season,” Burdette said. “When you get to this point in the postseason, however, you have to be able to maintain that focus. You can’t break down for a minute or two or three and expect things to work out in the end … and that ended up catching up to us.
“I will say that I’m proud of the effort and proud of the girls for working themselves to this point. It was also nice to see all of these other teams having seniors announced in their starting lineups and during awards presentations. We don’t have a single one of those, so we are hoping that this experience will make us a better basketball team next year and down the road.”
The Lady Jeeps led 13-10 after one quarter of play, but there were four ties and seven lead changes over the course of 13 minutes in the first half. Laura Pullins broke a 15-all contest with a trifecta at the 3:07 mark of the second canto, allowing EHS to take a permanent first half edge.
Jess Parker followed with a rare four-point play 30 seconds later, then Elizabeth Collins hit a short jumper at the 2:06 mark — allowing the guests to claim their largest lead of the night at 24-15.
South Webster — after going scoreless for nearly four minutes — reeled off five straight points to close to within 24-20 with 1:05 left. Parker, however, added another late trifecta as Eastern secured a 27-20 intermission advantage.
The Lady Eagles committed three turnovers before attempting their first shot in the second half, and South Webster hit its first shots during an 8-0 run to start the third — giving the hosts a 28-27 edge with 6:38 remaining.
Rebecca Pullins and Parker answered with consecutive baskets for a 31-28 EHS edge with 4:51 left, but Maddie Stamper tied things up with a three-pointer a minute later.
Kacie Hall followed with a trifecta at the 2:18 mark for a permanent SWHS lead of 34-31, and that basket sparked a 9-5 run over the final minutes as the hosts took a 40-36 cushion into the finale.
South Webster hit 5-of-8 field goal attempts and went 9-of-13 at the free throw line down the stretch, and the hosts led by double digits for the better part of four minutes in the middle of the fourth frame.
The Lady Eagles outrebounded SWHS by a 26-24 overall margin, but the hosts did claim a small 6-5 edge on the offensive glass. The Lady Jeeps, however, owned the second half boards with a 15-12 overall advantage and a 5-3 lead on the offensive end.
EHS committed 16 turnovers in the setback and went 11-of-17 at the free throw line for 65 percent, while South Webster committed eight miscues and netted 12-of-18 charity tosses for 67 percent.
The Green and Gold connected on 17-of-37 shot attempts for 46 percent, including a 6-of-18 effort from behind the arc for 33 percent. Parker and Rebecca Pullins both led the guests with 13 points, while Laura Pullins posted a double-double effort of 12 points and 12 rebounds.
Elizabeth Collins was next with six points, while Alyson Bailey and Kelsey Casto respectively rounded out the Eastern tally with four and three markers.
The Lady Jeeps made 21-of-47 field goal attempts for 45 percent, including a 6-of-19 effort from three-point territory for 32 percent. Kacie Hall led the hosts with a game-high 20 points, while Ellie Jo Johnson and Cheyennee Weakley respectively added 16 and 11 markers.
Kimber Johnson was next with seven points and Stamper concluded the winning tally with three points. Ellie Jo Johnson and Kimber Johnson each hauled in nine rebounds apiece for SWHS.
Eastern finished the season second in TVC Hocking play with a 13-3 league mark, trailing only Waterford (16-0) in the standings for a second straight year.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.
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