CAMDEN — Eaton and Preble Shawnee’s girls’ basketball teams had not met on the hardwood since 2013.
Last week, the two teams renewed their spirited rivalry with the host Arrows claiming a 51-43 win in a physical contest on Thursday, Dec. 21.
The game left one coach wondering if his team is as good as its record reflects and the other coach optimistic about the remainder of the season.
Shawnee improved to 8-2 with the win, while Eaton fell to 3-6.
Junior Nicole Sims led the Arrows with 14 points. Junior Brenna Woodard had 10, while junior Jenna Lovely contributed nine and senior Malorie Plaugher chipped in with eight.
For Eaton, junior Annika Gels had 12 points and six rebounds. Junior Becca Mowen tossed in eight and had seven rebounds. Senior Bailee Worley added seven points and sophomore Bailey Shepherd chipped in seven points and had seven rebounds.
“The best thing, I think, that these girls take from these games, and we’ve had several of them this year, and I don’t what this to sound like a knock against Eaton, they played hard, but we should easily win that ball game,” Shawnee Coach Kevin Schaeffer said.
Early in the fourth quarter it looked like Schaeffer was right.
The Arrows led 46-31 with just over six and a half minutes left in the game.
But Eaton never gave in. The Eagles went on a 12-3 run over a six minute span to cut the Shawnee lead to 49-43 with 31 seconds left, before the Arrows sealed the game with a pair of late free throws.
“I think we’re a good basketball team,” Schaeffer said. “But sometimes I scratch my head and wonder if we’re really that good.
Shawnee shot just 1-of-14 from the field in the fourth quarter, including missing its last 13 shots, but was able to make just enough free throws to hold on.
“In the last week, all we’ve really focused on is putting the ball back up, easy layups, simple things. Getting yourself on the free throw line. The basics. I bet we missed 10 to 12 two-footers with minimal pressure on us,” Schaeffer said. “The last three or four games we really haven’t played that well.”
Schaeffer said he also realizes his team has been able to find ways to win.
“I don’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth,” he said. “We are 8-2. Milton and Madison, Eaton and certainly Waynesville, those are respected programs. They’re not terrible basketball teams. I’m happy with the win. I just think we’re a better basketball than what we’re showing.”
Eaton on the other hand was 5-for-17 from the field and struggled from the free throw line, making just 2-of-9 attempts in the final quarter.
“I was really proud of the way my team competed in the second half. We never gave up and cut their lead all the way down to six late in the game. We simply ran out of time,” Eaton Coach Dave Honhart said. “In many ways, it felt like we grew up on the court during the second half. We got tougher, and we figured out how to make plays against a tough opponent.”
Honhart credited the Arrows for making plays when needed.
“Lots of credit to Preble Shawnee. They are talented, tough, well-coached and they play together very well. Half court defense has been a strength of ours and we struggled to guard them for most of the night,” Honart said. “Sims, Woodard and Lovely make for a very strong set of guards and it is awfully hard to contain all of them. They shoot it well, create well, they are unselfish and they finish well in transition. They also have nice bigs — especially Plaugher — who understand how to play off their guards and where to go on the court and they finish well around the rim.”
Honhart felt the game could have had a different outcome had his team not struggled from the line.
“Free throw shooting definitely hurt us tonight, and I feel badly for my players. They have been working hard at improving in that area. It is just a matter of developing a certain mindset and we will get there,” Honhart said. “I’m excited about where we are going as a team.”
Preble Shawnee will have two weeks off before traveling to Cincinnati Christian on Thursday, Jan. 4. They are also scheduled to host Monroe on Saturday, Jan. 6.
For Eaton, the Eagles will travel to National Trail on Saturday, Dec. 30. Junior varsity tip-off is set for noon. Eaton will host Franklin on Jan. 4 and visit Hamilton Ross on Jan. 6.
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @emowen_RH