TUPPERS PLAINS, Ohio — Visiting River Valley got the green light on Friday night, as the Raiders also put up the proverbial stop sign.
That’s because River Valley drained four first-half three-pointers, and held the Eastern Eagles to 15 first-half points, en route to capturing a 57-42 season-opening boys basketball victory at Eastern High School.
The contest was part of opening night of the 2016-17 season around the state of Ohio.
It also marked the River Valley head coaching debut for Brian Drummond, who was an assistant in the Raiders girls program a year ago.
The Raiders never trailed, and the closest the depth-plagued Eagles came to a lead was 4-2.
River Valley led 15-9 following the first quarter, boosted the advantage to 26-15 at halftime, then outscored Eastern in the second half 31-25 to post the 15-point win.
When the Eagles trimmed the deficit to 32-26 with two-and-a-half minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Raiders held them scoreless for the next four minutes — scoring eight unanswered points over the same span.
For the final eight minutes and 18 seconds, the Raiders’ lead never dropped below double figures.
Their largest margin stood at 48-32 with 3:40 remaining.
“It was a team effort,” said Drummond. “It’s a big win for us. We’ve done a lot of work and we’re on the cusp of where we need to be. It’s going to be a steady climb for us. We made some shots and we’re going to make more and take more. We’ve got the great light every time. There is no red light on this team. If they are open, shoot it.”
The Raiders did just that, while Eastern also shot the ball.
Only the Eagles, against the much taller and bulkier Raiders, couldn’t find the range from primarily outside the lane.
“I thought our kids were a little bit intimated by their size. They got good looks, but were a little bit timid going up with their shots, thinking that the contact was going to come and it didn’t,” said Eastern coach Jeremy Hill. “It was a multitude of things that made the offense not quite click in the first half. In the second half, I thought we ran the offense better, but we kind of went away from it and didn’t stay as disciplined in the offense.”
Eastern only had three players post points, including a game-high 26 from senior standout Jett Facemyer.
Facemyer finished with 13 field goals, including a first-half five — as he had 10 of the team’s 15 first-half points.
Jon Wolfe, who sank four second-half free throws, had the other five first-half points — on two field goals and a freebie.
Sharp Facemyer mustered seven second-half markers.
The Eagles also endured limited depth on Friday night — due to injuries and illness impacting the club.
“We’re going through some growing pains with our offense, because it’s totally new this year,” said Hill. “People are playing a little bit out of their spots because of injuries. We’ve had to fit people into different positions. We’re still learning the offense and how it works. I was pretty pleased at times that the offense was running the way we wanted to, and we got open looks. Unfortunately, we didn’t put them in the hole sometimes. Jett Facemyer had a very nice night and a lot of scoring will go through him, but we have other people that just didn’t shoot the ball well.”
The Raiders reaped the benefits of five total treys, including one apiece in the first half by Tre Craycraft, Brady Eblin, Rory Twyman and Jared McCarley.
McCarley canned his first-half triple to make it 26-15 with two-and-a-half minutes left before halftime, as his third-quarter trifecta made it 30-18.
He finished with five total field goals and 2-of-2 free throws for 14 points.
“We got lost on defense a few times. I don’t know if it was a matter of losing of our man or relaxing on defense a little bit — and that’s something we have to work,” said Hill. “And we didn’t defensively rebound the ball well. Size played a role in rebounding. Their 6-6 kid (Dovenbarger) had a lot of opportunities to just reach over and grab the ball. We have to do a better job of boxing out.”
Jacob Dovenbarger, who poured in a team-high 17 points on seven field goals and 3-of-5 free throws, scored eight in the first half and nine in the second.
He also grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds, as Ian Polcyn pulled down 11.
The senior Dovenbarger goes at six-foot six-inches tall, while Polcyn stands at 6-foot-4.
Craycraft’s three and back-to-back Dovenbarger buckets made it 11-2 only two minutes and 40 seconds in.
“Defense and rebounding were huge for us. We’re always going to be pretty big with Jacob Dovenbarger at 6-6 and Ian Polcyn at 6-4 in there, but my guards are scrappy and can rebound too,” said Drummond.
Those would include McCarley and Dustin Barber, who added eight points on three field goals and 2-of-2 foul shots.
Polcyn posted five points and Jacob Campbell canned a field goal.
After the game, Drummond met with his squad for merely a minute — and was already talking about hosting non-league Jackson on Tuesday.
The Ironmen opened the season with an impressive 49-43 victory over visiting South Webster on Friday night.
“We just play for the next game,” he said. “We’ve got Eastern out of the way, and we’re now getting ready for Jackson.”
The Eagles, meanwhile, invade South Gallia on Tuesday for the Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division opener.
“The kids gave us great effort for four quarters,” said Hill. “Even when they got down big, they still fought and battled. If we fix some of the things that we know to correct from tonight, work on our shooting and stay positive, the better team we’re going to be.”
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106