JACKSON, Ohio — Back to the round of 32.
After a one-year hiatus, the Eastern girls basketball team is headed to the district final for the ninth time in 10 years, as the second-seeded Lady Eagles defeated No. 3 seed Portsmouth Clay by a 47-30 count in the Division IV district semifinal on Thursday night at Jackson High School.
Eastern (15-8) — winner of five straight decisions —led 13-8 after one quarter of play, connecting on 6-of-17 field goal attempts in the opening eight minutes.
The Lady Eagles matched their first period shooting performance in the second, while holding Clay (15-9) to just five points in the quarter.
Eastern headed into the half with a 27-13 advantage, and stretched the margin to 18 points, at 41-23, by the end of the third canto.
The Lady Eagles cruised in the finale, outscoring the Lady Panthers by an 8-to-7 clip to seal the 49-30 win.
For the game, Eastern shot 22-of-62 (35.5 percent) from the field, including 3-of-18 (16.7 percent) from three-point range. Meanwhile, Clay was 12-of-55 (21.8 percent) from the field, including 3-of-17 (17.6 percent) from beyond the arc. At the free throw line, EHS was 2-of-7 (28.6 percent), while CHS was 3-of-10 (30 percent).
As a team, the Lady Eagles finished with 26 defensive rebounds, 11 offensive boards, 12 assists and 12 steals, while committing 11 turnovers.
Leading the way for the victors, Olivia Barber scored a dozen points and grabbed eight rebounds. Kelsey Casto scored eight points and grabbed eight rebounds of her own, while Kennadi Rockhold came up with seven points for the Lady Eagles.
Alyson Bailey — who led the EHS defense with six steals — scored six points in the win, while Jess Parker came up with four points, to go with seven rebounds and five assists. Ashton Guthrie and Tessa Rockhold both contributed three points to the winning cause, while Sydney Sanders, Whitney Durst and Jaymie Basham chipped in with two each.
Clay was led by Jensen Warnock and Jaelyn Warnock with 11 and 10 points respectively. Skylar Artis had four points, Sophia Gatti added three, while Sophia Balestra rounded out the Lady Panther total with two points.
Next up for Eastern is an all-too-familiar foe, top-seeded Portsmouth Notre Dame, which advanced over Federal Hocking by a 67-37 count on Thursday.
Notre Dame defeated EHS 56-33 on Dec. 22 in Meigs County, ending that game on a 37-to-14 run. This will be the fifth time in seven seasons that the Lady Eagles and Lady Titans clash in the postseason, with NDHS winning its first of the four bouts last season, by a 44-32 tally in the district semifinal.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.