KETTERING — The Eaton boys basketball season came to an end at the hands of two-seeded Dunbar during the Division II sectional semifinals at Trent Arena on Monday, Feb. 22.
The Eagles hung tough for the first quarter, only trailing 16-15, before a big second quarter separated the Wolverines as they rolled to a 94-59 victory.
In the second period Dunbar outscored the Eagles 28-16 to take a 13-point, 31-44 lead into the break.
Eaton staged a comeback in the middle of the third after getting down by 20 in the frame however, putting together a 12-4 run – including three triples – to cut the lead to 11. But Dunbar scored the next 13 points, separating themselves by 24 and never looked back.
The Eagles also tried to force Dunbar to earn their points at the free-throw line, intentionally fouling their poorest free-throw shooters. But even Jonathan Allan, the Wolverines worst shooter at the line (averaging below 30 percent on the season), went 2-3 in that stretch.
“We didn’t get the breaks that we wanted but I’m really proud of the kids. They played to the very end,” said Eaton head coach John Tollefson.
Dunbar closed out the fourth by outscoring Eaton 24-9.
The game ends Tollefson’s first year with the program, where he went 6-17 and lost five of those contest by six points or less (including an overtime loss to SWBL champion Franklin).
But despite the poor season in the win/loss column, this year’s club holds a special place in the new coach’s heart.
“This is my favorite basketball team I’ve ever coached. Which is funny – not funny – but with six wins, you wouldn’t necessarily say that. These kids mean a lot to me,” said Tollefson. “With this many close games and overtimes and everything that we had, I’m incredibly pleased. I’m very proud of our senior leadership. I’m very, very proud of our guys – they battled every game this year. We never laid down.”
The Eagles will lose Trey Smith, Ronnie Lindsey, Tyler Springmier, Max Fadden, and Brayden Waggoner to graduation on the season.
Tollefson writes letters to all the seniors he coaches and said this group will be his hardest to say goodbye to.
“I’ve never written the senior letters like I did this year, but I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to get it out the way I wanted to on just how special they all are,” he said.
Tollefson also acknowledged that those seniors have set “the foundation” of what he hopes the program will become.