TUPPERS PLAINS, Ohio — In the end, moral victories just don’t amount to much in the win column.
The Eastern boys basketball team produced a noteworthy effort in its 2015-16 home opener, but visiting Belpre ultimately pulled away with a 12-3 run in the second overtime Tuesday night while claiming a 77-68 decision in a Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division matchup at the Eagle’s Nest in Meigs County.
The Eagles (0-3, 0-2 TVC Hocking) lost both big men late in regulation because of fouls, but still found a way to hit a game-tying layup at the buzzer to force overtime. The depleted hosts also went talon-to-talon with the Golden Eagles (3-2, 2-0) during the first extra session, which led to a 65-all contest headed into the second OT period.
During that second four-minute span, however, Cole Knotts hit a trifecta at the 3:38 mark — which ultimately gave BHS a permanent cushion the rest of the way. EHS closed to within 71-68 with 39 seconds left, but the guests ended the game with a 6-0 run to wrap up the nine-point triumph.
Eastern never trailed by more three possessions in the entire contest and also held four-point leads during the third and fourth frames, but the fates simply didn’t line up for the Green and Gold.
Third-year EHS coach Jeremy Hill was thrilled with the effort and character that his troops showed against a deeper and likely more-talented Belpre squad. But, as Hill noted afterward, it was still hard to see such a positive performance end up going for not.
“Tonight, we saw a basketball team come together and play as a group … a group that didn’t do that during our first two games this year. It was a positive to see us come together and execute, and hopefully that will continue beyond tonight,” Hill said.”Belpre is going to be one of the top three teams in the league, so for us to come out here and go double overtime with them and almost pull out a victory … that’s something that we could hang our hats on. However, as proud as I am of the kids’ efforts tonight, this one still counts as a loss — and that’s what makes this one tough.”
Belpre jumped out to an early 17-13 edge after eight minutes of play, but the hosts answered with the opening four points of the second canto to knot things up at 17-all. Both teams traded leads six different times over the final 6:40 of the first half, with Eastern closing the second period with a slim 15-14 run to take a 32-31 advantage into the break.
Chase Curtis drilled a trifecta a minute into the second half to give the Eagles a 35-31 lead, but the guests answered with an 11-0 surge over the next 5-plus minutes to claim their largest lead in regulation at 42-35 with 2:49 remaining in the third.
Eastern, however, answered with a 5-0 run over the final 2:13 of the period to close the gap down to 42-40 headed into the fourth quarter.
There were five ties and six lead changes over the final eight minutes of regulation, with a solid portion of those numbers occurring in the final two minutes. Deijon Bedgood made a free throw to give BHS a 57-55 edge with 6.5 seconds left, and then came the big fourth quarter moment.
Eastern inbounded the ball to the middle of the floor, which led to an up-floor pass to Jett Facemyer on the right side. Facemyer managed to slip behind the defense, ran the pass down and converted a contested layup just before the buzzer sounded — allowing the Eagles to force overtime.
After losing Ross Keller to fouls with 3:48 left in the fourth and also going without Dylan Swatzel after he fouled out with 6.5 seconds left in regulation, the Eagles relied on guard play and a thin bench to get through the first extra session.
There were three ties and three lead changes in the first overtime, and neither team led by more than three points during that span. Facemyer hit a jumper with 19 seconds left to knot the game up at 65-all, which eventually led to final four minutes of play.
The hosts outrebounded BHS by a 35-25 overall margin and committed 17 turnovers, compared to just five giveaways by the Golden Eagles.
Eastern connected on 22-of-44 field goal attempts for 55 percent, including a 4-of-7 effort from 3-point range for 57 percent. EHS was also 16-of-23 at the free throw line for 70 percent.
Facemyer led the hosts with 26 points, followed by Swatzel with 21 points and Ty Bissell with 11 markers. Keller and Austin Coleman rounded out the Eastern tally with six and four points respectively.
Facemyer paced the Eagles with seven rebounds and Swatzel hauled in six boards, while Bissell dished out a team-best three assists.
Belpre connected on 24-of-53 shot attempts for 45 percent, including an 8-of-22 effort from behind the arc for 36 percent. The guests were also 22-of-37 from the charity stripe for 59 percent.
Bedgood led the guests with a game-high 28 points, followed by Nathan Mason and Mythius Houghton with 13 markers apiece. Tavian Miller was next with eight points, followed by Knotts and Tik Wong with six points each.
Ethan Williams and Brayden Logfellow rounded out the winning tally with two points and one point, respectively.
The Eagles return to TVC Hocking action Friday night when they travel to Wahama for a 7:30 p.m. contest.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.