SPRINGFIELD — Eaton’s girls basketball team used a fast start to pull away from Ponitz in the first round of the Tecumseh Division II sectional tournament to get the program’s first tournament win since 2015.
Eaton raced out to a 17-6 lead and led 23-10 after one and never looked back as the No. 8 seeded Eagles dispatched the No. 6 seeded Panthers, 69-40, on Saturday, Feb. 16 at Springfield High School.
“I was very proud of our team for the way the played, with teamwork and toughness. They have worked very hard and played hard all season and definitely deserved to experience a playoff win,” Eaton coach Dave Honhart said. “I thought our bench was engaged and we had a great crowd, both of which always help you play your best.”
Eaton forced the Panthers into eight turnovers in the first quarter to set the tone for game.
“Defensively we wanted to make Ponitz play a full court game and pressure them into turnovers. We wound up with 21 steals led by Emily Dungan with six, Bailey Shepherd with five and Becca Mowen with four.” Honhart said. “These steals led to us getting some high percentage shots. In (Leah) Ruffin, (Jordan) Petigrew they have players who can not only knock down perimeter shots, but slice through a defense and score with runners and Eurosteps. We wanted to use our zone to force them to use their left hands and make sure their shots were contested.”
Eaton extended its lead to as many as 25 in the first half (37-12) and led 39-20 at the break.
The Panthers closed the gap to 39-24 early in the third, but Eaton regrouped to close out the quarter on a 13-4 run to take a 52-28 lead into the fourth quarter.
Eaton had four players score in double figures and two others had seven or more.
Shepherd had 12 points, eight rebounds and five steals. Dungan came off the bench to score 12 to go along with six steals and five rebounds.
Freshman Mara Posey contributed 11 points, three rebounds and two steals.
Senior Annika Gels was 10-of-12 from the foul line and finished with 10 points and seven rebounds.
Senior Becca Mowen had nine points and four steals.
Sophomore Lexi Miller contributed seven points.
“Offensively, it was great to see such scoring balance, as we had five players with between 9-12 points and another with seven,” Honhart said. “Freshman Mara Posey has worked her way into the varsity rotation over the last couple weeks, and this was her first big contribution as she knocked down a few buckets in the first half. She has a bright future and it was exciting to see her come up big at playoff time. Our guards all handled their pressure well all day and shared the ball nicely; Allison Mowen led the team in assists with four.”
Eaton took advantage of early foul trouble by the Panthers. The Eagles went to the line 38 times.
“Pontiz can be foul-prone and we talked about the need to use fakes and go strong around the rim. We were successful in drawing fouls and we shot the ball well at the free throw line, especially when building the lead early,” Honhart said.
The win over Ponitz was the second for Eaton this season. The two teams met the second game of the season with Eaton claiming a 72-48 win. In that game, the Eagles shot 50 free throws.
The Eagles (8-15) will play No. 7 seed Bellefontaine in the second round on Wednesday, Feb. 20, at 7:30 p.m. The Chieftains defeated No. 5 Greenville 34-29 in the first round.
“They play a disciplined slow-paced brand of basketball,” Honhart said of Bellfontaine. “We will definitely be looking to speed them up and make it more of an open-court game. They are very good at protecting the paint, so we are going to have to puncture the middle of their defense, while knocking down some outside shots. They are very good at getting the shots they want, so we will have to balance our disruptive nature on defense with some toughness and patience. It should be a fun game and we hope to again have great crowd support.”
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @emowen_RH