BIDWELL, Ohio — The Raiders stumbled out of the gates, and the Eagles certainly took advantage.
The River Valley boys basketball team missed its first 19 three-point attempts of Friday’s non-conference bout in Gallia County, as visiting Eastern — which led by 20 points by the time the Raiders sank their first trifecta — claimed a 56-41 victory in the season opener for both clubs.
Five minutes into play, the teams were tied for the third time, at 6-all, but Eastern (1-0) ended the period with an 8-1 run and a 14-7 lead.
The Raiders (0-1) trimmed their deficit to six points by the 3:30 mark of the second quarter, but the Eagles scored 10 of the final 12 points in the first half and headed into the break on top 26-12.
The guests claimed the first seven points of the second half, stretching their lead to a game-high 21 points with 5:30 left in the third period. The Raiders outscored EHS by a 3-2 count over the next 3:30 and then Layne Fitch sank the hosts’ first trifecta with 1:50 left in the third. The Eagles went on a 5-3 run over the remainder of the quarter, however, taking a 41-22 lead into the finale.
The Raiders made three baskets in the opening minute of the fourth quarter, cutting the EHS lead to 12 points, at 41-29. However, Eastern answered with a 12-5 run, extending the margin to 19 points with 2:15 to play.
River Valley scored seven points in the final 2:15, but Eastern’s 3-of-6 performance from the line was enough to seal the 56-41 win.
“It’s the first time in about six years that our club has been able to pull out a win at the beginning of the year,” fifth-year EHS head coach Jeremy Hill said. “We’re undefeated, we’re just going to move on to the next one and try to get better. This team is growing and they play hard, that’s all we ask for.
“Hat’s off to River Valley, they never gave up,” Hill added. “We caught them on a poor shooting night. Had they made a few more shots, it would have been a been a different ball game, like we saw in the second half.”
For the game, Eastern shot 22-of-52 (42.3 percent) from the field, including 3-of-11 (27.3 percent) from deep. The Raiders made 14-of-62 (22.6 percent) field goal tries in the game, after making just 3-of-30 in the first half. The Silver and Black were 5-of-30 (16.7 percent) from beyond the arc in the game, making five of their final 11 attempts.
“We got behind the eight-ball and I’m thinking that we need to make some three-pointers to get this thing rolling,” second-year RVHS head coach Bryan Drummond said. “In hindsight, maybe we should have looked for some open curl cuts, or open flex cuts. We should have got things moving toward the basket, instead of thinking eventually we’re going to start making threes. In my mind, I think when you miss so many, you should have a run coming where you make them. We just never got that run tonight.”
Both teams made eight free throws in the contest, RVHS in 12 attempts and Eastern in 18. The Raiders won the turnover battle by a 21-16 clip, after the Eagles gave the ball away nine times in the fourth quarter. As a team RVHS came up with 11 steals, four more than Eastern.
The Eagles claimed a 13-to-9 advantage in assists and a 42-to-28 advantage on the boards, with both teams grabbing 14 offensive rebounds and rejecting two shots.
“In years past we haven’t had that ball movement,” Coach Hill said. “These guys understand that they have to move the basketball and take care of it. Share it and it will come back to you, we haven’t had that in the past, we’ve been kind of one-dimensional.”
EHS senior center Kaleb Hill led the Green, White and Gold with a double-double effort of 16 points and 20 rebounds. Isaiah Fish posted 13 points for the victors, while Garrett Barringer and Colton Reynolds both had 11 points, with Barringer pulling in 11 rebounds for his double-double. Sharp Facemyer contributed five points and a team-best four assists to the winning cause.
The Eagle defense was led by Reynolds with three steals and Barringer with two blocked shots.
RVHS senior Jarret McCarley led the Silver and Black with 18 points and eight boards. Fitch was next with nine points and a team-best four assists, while Patrick Brown added four points and five rebounds. Dustin Barber and Rory Twyman both scored three points in the setback, while Chase Caldwell and Jordan Lambert marked two each.
Caldwell and Fitch both earned three steals for the RVHS defense, while Brown and Lambert rejected a shot apiece.
“What kept us around was hustle and just getting after it,” Drummond said. “What didn’t get us over the hump was that we couldn’t string 3-or-4 baskets together, without giving one up in the middle of it that we shouldn’t have, on a putback or something like that. We really played hard, but maybe we need to look at our defense.
“It’s one game in a guaranteed 23-game season, nothing to get excited about right now,” added Drummond. “I was truly shocked with the tightness that we had, I did not expect that at all at home. It’s something to build on for us.”
Next, the Eagles begin Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division play, hosting Trimble on Friday. RVHS has one more non-conference showdown before its league slate begins, with the Raiders visiting Jackson on Tuesday, then starting TVC Ohio action at Athens on Friday. This is the lone scheduled meeting between RVHS and EHS this winter.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.