TUPPERS PLAINS, Ohio — The most effective way to close out a win is with defense.
The Eastern girls basketball team forced nine turnovers over the final eight minutes of Thursday night’s Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division tilt with visiting Trimble, allowing the Lady Eagles to secure the 45-36 victory at ‘The Nest’.
Eastern (15-6, 13-3 TVC Hocking) jumped out to a 9-6 lead through the first four minutes of play, but the Green and Gold were held to just two points over the final four minutes of the opening stanza, as the Lady Tomcats (10-10, 7-8) battled back to take a 13-11 lead.
The Lady Eagles scored the first nine points of the second quarter, making the EHS lead 20-13 with five minutes remaining in the first half. However, Trimble ended the half with an 11-2 run and a 24-22 advantage.
Eastern grabbed a two-point, 26-24 lead within the opening minute of the second half, but Trimble quickly regained the advantage with a 5-0 run. EHS outscored its guest 11-to-2 over the final four minutes of the third quarter and took a 37-31 lead into the finale.
The Lady Eagles made just 2-of-9 free throws in the final quarter, but the Lady Tomcats failed to take advantage, committing nine turnovers in the period and allowing EHS to seal the 45-36 victory.
“In the second half we just started stepping up and playing a little bit harder,” said Eastern assistant coach Tim Baum, who filled in as head coach in the absence of John Burdette. “In the first half, we didn’t apply that much pressure and we kind of sat back two steps away. We decided that we had to come out with a little more pressure and just went after it.”
EHS junior Laura Pullins led the Lady Eagles with 19 points, eight rebounds and three assists, while fellow junior Hannah Bailey chipped in with six points. Jess Parker and Rebecca Pullins both scored five points, Elizabeth Collins and Alyson Bailey each added four, while Kelsey Casto rounded out the EHS scoring with two markers.
Defensively, Parker led the Green and Gold with four steals, while Alyson Bailey finished with three steals. Collins rejected three shots for the hosts, while Laura Pullins came away with one steal and one block.
For the game, Eastern shot just 5-of-13 (38.5 percent) from the free throw line and 18-of-41 (43.9 percent) from the field, including 4-of-14 (28.6 percent) from beyond the arc. As a team the Green and Gold recorded 23 rebounds, nine assists, nine steals, four blocks and 11 turnovers.
Trimble was led by Nikki Kish with 25 points, 11 rebounds and two steals, while Morgan Murphy scored 10 points and Emily Ward scored one. Kaitlyn Spears and Sydney Hardy each posted three assists for the Red and Silver.
The Lady Tomcats shot 6-of-15 (40 percent) from the free throw line and 14-of-36 (38.9 percent) from the field, including 2-of-5 (40 percent) from beyond the arc. Collectively, the guests posted 22 rebounds, seven assists, five steals and 17 turnovers.
Eastern also defeated the Lady Tomcats on January 4, by a 57-20 count in Glouster.
“We tell them over and over that we never overlook anybody at anytime,” Baum said. “I knew coming in here that it was going to be a tough one, because Trimble has been playing better basketball. They’re a nice team and Kish is very hard to stop, as you could see tonight.”
EHS will return to action on Saturday in the sectional final at Meigs High School, where the second-seeded Lady Eagles will take on the winner seventh-seeded Ironton St. Joe and the 10-seed Miller. The Lady Eagles have defeated both the Lady Flyer and Lady Falcons this season.
“We have a long break and we can get a little bit of rest,” Baum said. “We have to go back and work on the simple things, our rebounding, defense and applying some more pressure when we need to.”
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.