TUPPERS PLAINS, Ohio — The EHS defense came through when it needed it most.
The Eastern girls basketball team held Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division guest Belpre to just two points over the final five minutes of play, as the hosting Lady Eagles escaped with a 39-37 victory, on Thursday night in Meigs County.
Eastern (17-3, 13-2 TVC Hocking) scored seven of the first eight points, and the hosts held a six point lead, at 13-7, by the end of the first quarter.
EHS opened the second period with a three-pointer, but Belpre (15-5, 12-3) responded with a 7-0 run to cut its deficit to two points, at 16-14. However, Eastern ended the half with a 6-3 run and a 22-17 lead.
The hosts were held to just seven points in the third quarter, as the visiting Lady Golden Eagles trimmed the EHS lead back to two points, at 29-27, by the end of the period.
Belpre took its first lead of the game 20 seconds into the fourth quarter, on a Cheyenne Barker three-pointer. Eastern regained the lead just one minute later, when Alyson Bailey hit a layup to give the hosts a 31-30 edge.
The guests tied the game at 31, 33 and 35, but never regained the advantage. Eastern scored four of the final six points of the game, sealing the 39-37 victory.
“A championship team, a winning team, they’re going to come in day in and day out, and do the little things correctly,” Eastern head coach Jacob Parker said. “Consistency is something that we have preached and preached, now it’s time to do or die. Tonight we were not very consistent and we did a lot of things wrong. Credit to Belpre, they came out and flat got after it, they were hungry for a win.”
For the game, Eastern held a 34-to-29 rebounding advantage, despite Belpre winning the offensive glass by a 14-to-11 total. EHS also claimed a 9-to-7 assists advantage and a 4-to-3 edge in blocked shots. Both teams recorded three steals, with EHS committing 11 turnovers, one more than BHS.
“All year we’ve prided ourselves on defense, and tonight we just didn’t have that defensive mindset,” Coach Parker said. “We weren’t calling out screens, we weren’t hedging, we weren’t getting to help-side, and we were getting beat off the dribble, things that haven’t happened to us all year.”
The hosts shot 14-of-44 (31.8 percent) from the field, including 3-of-12 (25 percent) from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, Belpre was 13-of-47 (27 percent) from the field, including 5-of-15 (33.3 percent) from deep. EHS made 8-of-15 (53.3 percent) free throws, while BHS was 6-of-14 (42.9 percent) from the stripe.
“For the most part, we work hard,” Coach Parker said. “It’s coming to the point in the season where we have to start retaining the knowledge that we’re learning and apply it to games. Tonight that didn’t happen for us.”
Eastern was led by sophomore Elizabeth Collins with a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds, to go with a game-high two blocked shots.
Laura Pullins and Alyson Bailey both scored nine points and dished out three assists, with Pullins grabbing 10 rebounds and Bailey recording a team-high two steals.
Becca Pullins marked five points in the win, Jess Parker added four points, while Kelsey Casto finished with two.
Cheyenne Barker led Belpre with 19 points, followed by Malika Campbell and Kynalyn Waderker with four points apiece. Abbey LaFatch and Trinidy King both scored three points, while Sydney Spencer and Daisy Cowdery each added two points.
Waderker led BHS on the glass with nine rebounds, while Spencer had a team-best three assists. Waderker also led the Belpre defense with one steal and one block.
Belpre had won six straight games headed into Thursday. With this being its final home game of the year, Eastern finishes 9-2 at ‘The Nest’.
Eastern also defeated the Orange and Black on December 22, by a 61-41 count, in Belpre.
Prior to the game EHS honored seniors Hannah Bailey — who is currently out, due to an injury — and Laura Pullins for their final home game in the Green, White and Gold.
Eastern will be back in action on Thursday, in its season finale, at Trimble. Belpre will wrap up its league slate on Monday, when it hosts Waterford, which secured at least a share of the TVC Hocking title with victory, a 67-13 win at Southern, on Thursday. It was Waterford’s 50th straight league win, securing its third straight TVC Hocking title.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.