RACINE, Ohio — They are known at Southern High School as the ‘Hustlin’ Tornadoes.
But, on Friday night, it was all about the visiting Eastern Eagles and the on-fire Facemyers.
Spearheaded by a combined 44 points from Jett and Sharp Facemyer, the Eagles seized control early and held on for dear life late —en route to capturing a critical 59-56 Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division boys basketball tilt.
Eastern led for the final 27 minutes and 15 seconds, and even upped its advantage to a pair of 13-point cushions (47-34 and 48-35) in the third quarter.
However, the archrival Tornadoes charged back, and doubled up the Eagles 18-9 in the final quarter to make the final few minutes most interesting.
After Southern’s Tylar Blevins scored with 13-and-a-half seconds left to trim the Tornado deficit to 57-56, Jett Facemyer then turned the ball over — and Trey McNickle made the steal for Southern.
But the Tornadoes turned the ball over by throwing a pass out of bounds — the last of several Southern giveaways for the night.
Facemyer then quickly redeemed himself, as the Eagles — operating underneath the Southern basket and with only four seconds left, set up in a tight four-man stack formation with Corbett Catlett on the inbounds.
Facemyer broke away from the stack, Catlett hit him in stride with a pass past midcourt, and Facemyer made a buzzer-beating layup to set off a wild Eastern celebration in Racine.
“The previous out-of-bounds play, they (Tornadoes) were playing in front of Jett (Facemyer). I told Jett that if they are in front of you, go long, and we’ll look and see if we can get a runout,” said Eastern coach Jeremy Hill. “You kind of don’t want to do it, because you’re afraid the inbounder will throw it too far or the pass gets intercepted. But we felt like with four seconds, a runout in that situation, for some might be too risky, but we felt it was the best move for us.”
While that call might have been the game’s best move, it was arguably the Eagles’ best win of the season.
Eastern played particularly well for the first three quarters, including the middle two stanzas, when it outscored Southern 35-26 —and led by at least seven points for 10 minutes and five seconds in the second half.
The Eagles end the regular season at 9-13 — and an even 8-8 in the TVC-Hocking.
Southern, which travels to Trimble on Tuesday for a league makeup matchup, slipped to 10-11 —and 8-7 in the league.
As the Tornadoes played well and won at Eastern 53-37 on Jan. 13, the Eagles turned the tables on Friday night.
“I will say that I think this is the best we have played against a quality opponent,” said Hill. “We’ve had other good games and good wins, but for us to put a game like this together, tonight it was all about who we did it against. I have a lot of respect for Coach (Jeff) Caldwell because he runs a great program and Southern always plays hard. This (Southern) is also my alma mater.”
Southern, conversely, doesn’t like losing to the Eagles — especially on Senior Night.
The Tornadoes’ sixthsome of seniors —Blevins, Blake Johnson, Eli Hunter, Kody Greene, Crenson Rogers and Trey Pickens — were honored before the game.
But Southern coach Jeff Caldwell credited the Eagles in his postgame media interview.
“Eastern played a great game tonight. Kind of like we played a great game at their place. Now we played better than they did in the fourth quarter, but for three quarters, they played really well,” he said. “We struggled with Jett (Facemyer) all night. He is that type of player than can take over a game. But their other kids played their roles, and did what they had to do. I thought they hurt us on the offensive glass, getting offensive rebounds. And we struggled of course from the foul line. Then we had those unforced turnovers where we get rushed or panicked.”
Facemyer — on 12-of-24 shooting —poured in 30 points, including 11 two-point goals.
He had 18 in the first half alone, as Sharp Facemyer —thanks largely to three first-period three-pointers —tossed in 14.
His second trifecta, at the 3:15 mark, gave the Eagles the lead for good at 10-8.
Both Facemyers made 5-of-7 free throws, part of a team 11-of-17.
Jeremiah Martindale made a steal and layup to make it 15-9, but Southern’s Weston Thorla drilled a three to make it 15-12 after one.
But Jett Facemeyer went off in the second quarter for 16 points, scoring 13 of the Eagles’ opening 14 —including an old-fashioned three-point play that made it 29-20 at the one-and-a-half minute mark.
He then splashed his only three-ball of the night — beating the first-half buzzer to make it 34-25.
Facemyer then scored seven more markers in the third, including three foul shots, as the Eagles maintained a lead ranging from seven to 13 points for the next 10:05.
Martindale made four of six floor shots for eight points, while Garrett Barringer —on two third-quarter baskets —and Kaleb Hill —on a third-quarter field goal and free throw —rounded out the Eastern scoring.
“We’ve relied all season long on Jett to lead us to victories. But that means that sometimes, everybody else doesn’t get involved as much as they should. But the last three or four games, we’ve been preaching for Jett to get his other teammates involved in the game, and to understand that it will all come back around to him,” said Hill.
However, speaking of comebacks, the Tornadoes rallied from a 50-38 deficit following the third frame to within 53-52 on four consecutive Rogers free throws.
With a minute remaining, Southern —trailing 55-52 — saw a golden opportunity get away when it missed two foul shots and a rebound putback.
Rogers scored to make it 55-54, but Sharp Facemyer made a pair of double-bonus free throws at the 22-second mark for another three-point lead (57-54).
Blevins then scored, and Southern got the steal with under 10 ticks to play, but could not convert on the other end.
The Tornadoes were doomed in part by missing 10 of their 18 free-throw attempts.
Rogers —on five field goals and 6-of-7 freebies —recorded a team-high 16 points.
Pickens posted nine points on four buckets and 1-of-2 free throws, while Thorla landed three three-pointers.
Johnson and Dylan Smith scored seven points apiece, as Blevins bagged six to round out the Purple and Gold.
“I’m proud of our kids that they fought at the end,” said Caldwell. “We’ll just take this as a learning experience as every game is, and get ready for our next one (at Trimble on Tuesday).”
For the Eagles, that next one is on Tuesday — in the Division IV sectional tournament at Meigs High School against Green.
Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.
As for Friday night, the Eagles did want to celebrate a win in their archrival’s house.
“This is a big win for us, because we have been down, but we’re working hard to get this program restored back to where it once was,” said Hill. “Tonight, it was some of those baby steps that you take. We had about a six-minute stretch where we didn’t look like the team that was going to win, but you still have to play all 32 (minutes), and I think we just played more minutes than they did.”
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106