It had been nearly 20 years since Southern Coach Jeff Caldwell had been involved in an Eastern-Southern game. The game unfolded just like he remembered the old-fashioned, hard-fought battles. Also, it was the first Caldwell-Caldwell Eastern-Southern match-up as veteran mentor and Eastern Head Coach Howie Caldwell, a first cousin, paced the opposing sideline. Both teams were very well-prepared.
Harris led Southern with 22 points and six rebounds, while Kleski added 19-points and seven rebounds. The tandem complimented one another very well, pounding Eastern with a double whammy in the second period. Kleski dominated the third frame, then Harris helped seal the win in the finale.
Southern's Weston Roberts had an overall good game with nine points and a team-high nine rebounds, while Ryan Chapman again had a solid game with eight, Brad Brown had two with a great floor game and Brett Beegle came off the bench with several key rebounds and two points.
Eastern was led by Jake Lynch with 14 points and several key assists for the Eagles. Held to just one field goal in the first half, Lynch started to take charge in the third frame, leading Eastern to the 44-44 tie after his club had trailed from the onset. Kyle Rawson added nine points, and had eight rebounds; while Alex Burroughs added eight, Titus Pierce six, Nathan Carroll six and four apiece from Kelly Winebrenner and Mike Johnson.
A wild first half, typical of the cross-county battle, saw the rabbit versus the turtle. Southern was red-hot right out of the gate with a swift barrage of three-pointers that started early and finished strong. The jump of the rabbit was nearly eclipsed by Eastern's hard-nosed play which chipped away at a much slower pace, including 11 points which came from the foul line.
Southern led the opening round 13-11 after propelling to a 9-5 lead on three-tri fecta's from Ryan Chapman (two) and Roberts. Harris went coast-to-coast for a lay-in (11-5), then Rawson hit a ten-foot baseline jumper and Burroughs hit a follow-up lay-in to pull Eastern within two points (11-9). Southern's Kreig Kleski did a great job defensively trailing Jake Lynch, holding the sharp-shooter scoreless in the first quarter. Southern led 13-11 after round one.
Southern built up a quick 10-point lead in the second period on two treys and a lay-in from Bryan Harris (8 points) for a 23-13 tally. Both clubs played tenacious defense early. Southern's defense was smothering. Eastern's defense was just as good, not withstanding a necessary extension to cover Southern's red-hot three point barrage. Still, even with a flex to the perimeter, Southern managed to slip a few over Eastern's extended arms. The three-point barrage continued.
By the 3:33 mark before the intermission, Eastern had not hit a field goal in the second canto. Five points came at the line with Eastern three times missing the second shot of the bonus. By the 1:46 mark, Southern was decimated by fouls, losing Brown, Chapman, and Brauer as the team amassed 14 fouls. Later, Cyle Rees picked up his fourth for the Tornadoes.
Eastern went 10-of-16 at the line in the frame, taking advantage of several double-bonus attempts. Still struggling to get into an offensive flow, Lynch finally broke the field goal jinx, while Johnson, Pierce and Rawson added buckets that allowed Eastern to keep pace with the visitors.
After a Kleski goal gave SHS a 28-18 tally, Eastern's Pierce hit a fade-away jumper, Burroughs hit a pair of free throws and also the second of a two-shot foul; then Rawson added a follow-up jumper for a 28-25 tally. Several Southern misses, a turnover, and the miss on the front end of a bonus helped fuel Eastern's fire. Lynch went coast to coast to cut the lead to one just under the one-minute mark. Kleski hit a three, and after an Eastern free throw, Southern led 31-28 at the half.
Southern came out in a zone to start the second half. Still, the hosts picked up a couple quick fouls. At the 6:10 mark, after a couple Southern misses, Eastern's Mike Johnson notched the half's first score, a follow-up jumper. Coach Howie Caldwell didn't like what he saw on the next two series, and called a time out at the 5:30 mark after Southern's Roberts stole the ball and dished off to Kleski for the lay-in.
After Southern's Roberts hit a two, Titus Pierce hit a pair of goals off a steal and SHS turnover, cutting the lead to 35-34. Lynch then took the game into his hands for the Eagles. The talented guard simply buckled down and penetrated the armor-like SHS defense. Nathan Carroll hit a big three to aid Lynch's cause and give Eastern its first lead of 39-37. A Brown steal and lay-in and a floor-length baseball pass from Harris to Kleski with the “And-one” gave Southern a 42-39 edge. Brett Beegle hit a big turnaround jumper for Southern (44-41) then Lynch hit the old-fashioned three point play to tie the game at 44-44.
Just when Eastern seemed to have a head of steam to start the fourth quarter, Southern picked up the pace. Kleski hit a baseline jumper, then around a series of Southern misses, Harris grabbed a steal for a lay-in, then hit a long three at the 5:23 mark forcing Eastern to call time.
Fueled by a good SHS team effort and key goals from Kleski and Harris, Southern maintained a 6-8 point lead in the mid-portions of the last round. With just under a minute to play, Carroll hit a three to tighten the score to its final closest point, 56-51. Eastern then sent SHS to the foul line, where the Tornadoes went 2-5, giving the Eagles a shot for a comeback. Roberts made a key follow-up field goal off one of the rebounds that sealed the win for Southern, 62-51.
Southern hit 24-of-65 overall, hitting 9-of-25 three's for 36 percent, 15-of-40 two's, and 4-of-9 at the line. Eastern hit 18-of-59 overall, hit 2-of-19 three's, 16-of-40 two's, and 15-of-22 at the line.
Southern had 37 rebounds (Roberts 9, Kleski 7), 18 assists (Kleski 4, Roberts 5, Harris 4, Brown 3), nine steals (Kleski 4), 10 turnovers and 24 fouls. Eastern had 31 rebounds (Rawson 8, Burroughs 5), 7 assists, four steals, 17 turnovers and 18 fouls.
Eastern won the reserve game 54-44 led by Brayden Pratt with 14, Kyle Connery 9 and Tyler Hendrix with 7. For Southern Zach Manuel had 9, Sean Coppick 9, Nathan Roush 7 and Taylor Deem six.
Southern played at Wahama Saturday. Eastern plays at Meigs Friday, December 28.
Southern 62, Eastern 51
Southern 13 18 13 17 - 62
Eastern 11 17 16 7 - 51
SOUTHERN - Michael Manuel 0 0-0 0, Cyle Rees 0 0-0 0, Brad Brown 1 0-0 2, Trenton Roseberry 0 0-0 0, Kreig Kleski 7 2-3 19, Brett Beegle 1 0-0 2, Bryan Harris 9 0-2 22, Weston Roberts 4 0-0 9, Ryan Chapman 2 2-4 8, John Brauer 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 24 4-9 62 . Three Point Goals: Bryan Harris four, Ryan Chapman two, Kreig Kleski two, Weston Roberts one.
EASTERN - Josh Collins 0 0-0 0, Jake Lynch 4 6-7 14, Kelly Winebrenner 1 2-4 4, Mike Johnson 2 0-1 4, Titus Pierce 3 0-0 6, Jordan Kimes 0 0-0 0, Alex Burroughs 2 4-6 8, Nathan Carroll 2 0-0 6, Kyle Rawson 3 3-4 9. TOTALS: 16 15-22 51. Three Point Goals: Nathan Carroll two.