JACKSON, Ohio — A near-upset in uncharted territories.
The 21st-seeded Eastern girls basketball team — moving up to Division III this season — fell to 12th-seeded Oak Hill by a 52-50 count in the sectional semifinal on Thursday night at Jackson High School, ending the Lady Eagles’ streak of 14 consecutive years with a postseason win.
Eastern (10-13) — which will miss the district tournament for the first time since 2005 — led initially, but the Lady Oaks (15-8) took their first lead at 6-4 on a pair of Caitlyn Brisker free throws 2:42 into play. EHS was back in front at 8-6 on a Jennifer Parker field goal, and led 13-11 at the end of the opening quarter.
Just 18 seconds into the second stanza, Oak Hill hit a two-pointer to tie the game at 13. The Lady Eagles answered with a 10-to-4 run over the next seven minutes, and held their largest lead of the night, at 23-17.
The Lady Oaks, however, scored five points in the final five seconds of the period and went into halftime down 23-22.
Eastern scored the first four points of the second half, but Oak Hill scored the the next 10 and led 32-27 with 3:35 left in the third. The Green and White ended the third with a 5-to-2 spurt, trimming the OHHS lead to 34-32 headed into the finale.
Eastern tied it at 36 with a pair of Sydney Reynolds free throws 1:14 into the fourth, but Oak Hill was back up by two after an Olivia Clarkson two-pointer 34 seconds later. Juli Durst hit a two-pointer for EHS with 5:51 to go, tying the game for the final time, at 38.
Oak Hill responded with a 10-to-2 run, holding EHS without a field goal from the 5:51 mark until 1:15 to go, when Parker ended the drought with a triple.
A Kennadi Rockhold free throw made the OHHS lead 48-44 with 34 seconds left, but Brisker hit back-to-back free throws eight seconds later to give the Lady Oaks a six-point cushion.
Reynolds made a three-pointer for Eastern with 15 seconds left, cutting the margin to 50-47, but Brisker went back to the line and sank two more free throws with 11 seconds to play.
Eastern junior Olivia Barber hit a three-pointer with three seconds remaining, but the Lady Eagles couldn’t get the ball back and fell 52-50.
Following the season-ending setback, first-year EHS head coach Chuck Robinson talked about what gave the Lady Oaks the edge, and commended his players for their hard work.
“They have a little bit of an edge in their experience,” Robinson said. “We made a couple of mistakes where we were just throwing the ball, and not looking first. All-in-all, our girls played very hard, and our girls deserved to win as much as anybody did, not just because of the score, but because they played hard.”
For the game, EHS claimed a 38-to-21 rebounding advantage, despite giving up a 14-to-13 edge in offensive boards. Eastern committed 22 turnovers, 11 in each half, while the Lady Oaks gave the ball away 13 times total.
The Lady Eagles combined for 12 assists, seven steals and four rejections, while Oak Hill earned 13 steals, eight assists and seven blocked shots.
The Green and White shot 16-of-41 (39 percent) from the field, including 5-of-6 (83.3 percent) from beyond the arc, while OHHS made 18-of-49 (36.7 percent) field goal attempts, including 2-of-7 (28.6 percent) three-point tries. At the foul line, EHS was 13-of-19 (68.4 percent), and the Lady Oaks were 14-of-21 (66.7 percent).
Reynolds led the way for Eastern with 17 points, combining a trio of two-pointers, a pair of triples and a 5-for-6 day at the free throw line. Parker finished with nine points in the setback, Juli Durst came up with eight, while Barber scored seven and earned a team-best four assists.
Whitney Durst and Jaymie Basham scored two points each, with Basham — Eastern’s lone senior on the squad — grabbing a game-best 11 rebounds. Erica Durst rounded out the EHS offense with one point and a trio of assists.
Reynolds earned three steals to lead the Green and White on defense, with Basham, Rockhold and Erica Durst each adding a steal and a block.
Brisker paced the Lady Oaks with 22 points and four assists, scoring half of her game-high from the foul line. Chloe Chambers posted 16 points and eight rebounds for the victors, while Olivia Clarkson added six points and five boards. Brooke Howard and Peyton Miller came up with four points apiece to cap off the winning tally.
Brisker and Chambers led the OHHS defense, both recording three steals and three blocks.
Oak Hill advances to the sectional final on Saturday at Valley High School, where it will meet fifth-seeded Northwest.
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Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.