EATON — Twice this past week Eaton’s girls basketball team was within striking distance of two of the Southwestern Buckeye League’s top teams.
But, twice, the Eagles were unable to get over the hump and get a signature win.
Eaton, which trailed Bellbrook by four with three minutes remaining in the game, fell 64-50 on Thursday, Dec. 20. On Saturday, Eaton was within nine of current league-leader Franklin with just over two minutes left and had momentum, but ultimately suffered a 72-52 loss.
“I continue to be proud of our players’ effort. For 32 minutes this was a back and forth game,” Eaton coach Dave Honhart said of the Bellbrook game. “Now we need to learn to build on leads and finish out games by getting stops and creating and finishing good shots.”
Eaton shot the ball well from the field against the Golden Eagles, but committed 27 turnovers and was only 5-of-13 from the foul line.
“Our players have started putting in extra time shooting as a team, and today they saw the benefits of that work, as we shot 58 percent from the field (21-for-36.) Obviously you’re not always going to shoot it that well, but focused hard work does pay off,” Honhart said. “I thought we defended reasonably well. We have to execute better in terms of seeing ball and man and anticipating what the offense is going to do before it actually happens. Bellbrook had a good shooting night. Going into last night, they were shooting 30 percent from the floor and 20 percent from three. Last night they were 37 percent (23-62) and 35 percent (10-29) respectively. Some of that was great ball movement and good shooting on their part. At times our closeouts and defensive rotations were not as strong as they needed to be.”
The turnovers and poor free throw shooting have been issues for Eaton (3-7, 1-5 SWBL) all season.
“The same Achilles heels that have hurt us the last couple weeks reared their ugly heads again,” Honhart said. “We committed 27 turnovers versus Bellbrook’s 10, and we were 5 of 13 and the FT line. It is tough to win when you are giving the other team 26 more shots than you. And yet through hard work, competitiveness and rebounding (we were plus-12) we were right there until the final minutes. We are all working hard on fixing those issues and when we do, we’re going to start winning this kind of game.”
Eaton has balanced scoring on the night with six players scoring at least six points.
Junior Bailey Shepherd led Eaton with 12 points. Freshman Allison Mowen had eight and four rebounds. Senior Becca Mowen contributed seven points and four rebounds. Senior Annika Gels added seven points and five assists. Senior Emily Dungan tossed in seven and sophomore Lexi Miller had six.
Junior Ashley Earley and sophomore Kylee Pitsinger had four rebounds each.
Against Franklin, the Eagles were within nine at 61-52 with 2:15 left after going on a 9-4 run. But a foul and an ensuing technical foul gave the Wildcats a chance to seal the win. They made all four free throws then added two more on its next possession for a 67-52 lead. A couple of baskets in the final minute rounded out the scoring.
Franklin went to the line 17 more times than Eaton (36-19)
Eaton, though, struggled from the field, making just 18-of-52 shot attempts and allowed the taller Wildcats to grab 15 offensive rebounds. The Eagles also committed 25 turnovers and was just 11-of-19 from the foul line.
The Eagles made 4-of-21 shot in the first half as they fell behind 31-12 at the half.
“After a night where we shot extremely well at Bellbrook, we couldn’t get shots to drop in the first half. In the second quarter, despite our best efforts, that probably affected our defensive energy and our decision-making and execution in the second quarter. Obviously Franklin’s offensive skill and ability to make shots had a lot to do with their lead. They are well coached and play together really well,” Honhart said.
Despite the slow start, Honhart praised his team for fighting back.
“I was very proud of our players. Trailing 31-12 at halftime it would have been really easy to roll over. Instead we fought. We outscored them 21-17 in the third quarter and had it down to nine with about two minutes to go, but couldn’t quite get over the hump,” he said. “In the second half we consistently made the extra pass and Lexi Miller shot the ball with confidence, scoring all 13 of her points after intermission.”
Miller’s 13-point effort is a career-high. Shepherd scored 12.
Pitsinger tossed in nine, with seven coming in the final quarter.
Allison Mowen had eight and Becca Mowen contributed six.
For Franklin, University of Akron bound Layne Ferrell, proved difficult to stop. The 6-2 senior scored a game-high 28 points.
“Defensively, we knew Layne Ferrell was going to get her points. She is virtually impossible to stop,” Honhart said. “We wanted to really limit everyone else, but Franklin didn’t allow that to happen as Jordan Miller and Kristin Earles hit big shots for them.”
Rogers finished with 11 and Earles tossed in 10.
Eaton will return to action on Saturday, Dec. 29, to host National Trail. The junior varsity game is scheduled to begin at noon with the varsity to follow at approximately 1:15 p.m.
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @emowen_RH