MERCERVILLE, Ohio — Simply put, the Eastern Eagles’ best —and early on only — offense on Monday night was their defense.
Soon enough, however, the visiting Eagles’ offense chimed in.
Undefeated Eastern allowed only two South Gallia field goals for the entire tilt, and forced 22 turnovers in easily capturing a 55-12 Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division girls basketball victory.
After only a 4-0 lead following a defensively-dominated first quarter, the Eagles erupted by outscoring the Lady Rebels 17-4 in the second stanza — followed by an even more imposing 29-2 advantage in the third frame.
In the fourth period, the Eagles made five free throws in the first four minutes for their largest lead at 55-6, as South Gallia gained the final six points on 4-of-6 free throws by Aaliyah Howell — and the squad’s second field goal with only 25 seconds remaining.
Howell hit her four freebies with 3:46 and 3:24 to play, as Erin Evans — on the Rebels’ 26th shot attempt — ended another epic field-goal drought that spanned 12 minutes and 55 seconds.
Unfortunately for the Rebels, their first such dry spell spanned the opening 18 minutes and 40 seconds — before Howell had the club’s first field goal.
Eastern shut out South Gallia for the opening 12 minutes and 25 seconds —until Christine Griffith made a pair of free throws.
By then, however, the Eagles amassed the first 10 points — as South Gallia never got any closer than a 13-4 count following Olivia Hornsby’s two foul shots at the 2:53 mark before half.
With the win, Eastern raised its perfect record to 6-0 — and 3-0 in the TVC-Hocking.
The young Lady Rebels, without a single senior on the entire roster, fell to 1-3 — and 0-3 in the league.
While Eastern’s offense struggled to warm up, no worries for first-year EHS coach Jacob Parker.
The Eagles forced the Rebels into missing their first 14 shots — and all but one of their first 25.
“We are always priding ourselves on our defense,” said Parker. “I know I’ve said it time and time again, but defense leads to offense. We came out really flat offensively, but we finally got started. We were trying a few new combinations tonight, which the girls adjusted quite well.”
Eastern’s only points in the opening quarter were a putback by Elizabeth Collins at the 4:50 mark — and two free throws by Laura Pullins only a minute and 15 seconds later.
In the second canto, though, the Eagles amassed four three-point goals —two apiece by Maddison Williams and Becca Pullins.
Laura Pullins scored to make it 9-0 with three minutes gone by, as Jess Parker split a pair of free throws 15 seconds later.
Williams then closed the half with a midcourt steal and layup, making it 21-4 at halftime.
Eastern then exploded for 29 third-period points, including another three-ball apiece by Becca Pullins and Williams.
“Our first-half defense was great, then in the third quarter we came out and we picked our intensity up,” said Coach Parker. “We played good defense out front, got a few steals, caused a few turnovers and were able to transition our style of game. That’s what we’re looking to do.”
With a 50-6 command following the third quarter, Becca Pullins with a 4-of-4 free-throw effort and Hannah Bailey with a split concluded the Meigs Countians’ scoring.
Williams wound up with a game-high 16 points on six total field goals, as Becca Pullins finished with 13 points and Laura Pullins 10.
Laura Pullins posted three field goals and 4-of-6 charity tosses, as Collins and Alyson Bailey bagged two field goals in the third — along with one apiece by Parker and Kaitlyn Hawk.
The Eagles will return home, and return to TVC-Hocking Division action, with two important league bouts against Southern on Thursday and Waterford on Saturday.
Southern, of course, is Eastern’s archrival — while Waterford is the defending Division IV state champion.
“These are two huge home games,” said Coach Parker. “We’re going to prepare for both teams these next three days, which is tough, but we’re capable enough to do it. We’ll just prepare the best we can, put in a plan based on the scouting reports we have and go with it.”
The Lady Rebels return to action on Saturday — when they travel to face Federal Hocking in the TVC-Hocking.
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106