EATON — Eaton’s girls basketball team ran its season-opening winning streak to six games after defeating Hamilton Ross (34-27) and Monroe (45-37) last week.
With the win over Monroe, the Eagles improved to 2-0 in the Southwestern Buckeye League’s Southwestern Division.
At Ross, on Wednesday, Dec. 11, Eaton got off to a slow start against the win-less Rams, falling behind 9-4 after the first quarter.
“This was a battle and although I was not happy about the way we started the game, I was proud of our players for finding their focus and figuring out a way to win, “Eaton coach Dave Honhart said. “Sometimes when you’re having success, it is easy to look at a team’s record and make assumptions and fail to understand the level of competition they’ve been playing against, or really see what was apparent on film, which is that Ross is a really good defensive team. They struggle at times on offense, but they have a new coaching staff that is really doing some nice things with the program.”
Honhart contributed the slow start to how Ross played.
“We got ourselves in a 9-2 first quarter hole because Ross came out ready to play with great energy, and we didn’t quite have the edge that we needed,” he said. “I was really proud of our players for buckling down, pulling together and trusting that we’d figure out a way to win. They also didn’t let offensive frustrations affect their defense.”
Eaton took a 16-12 lead, but Ross rallied for the final five points of the second quarter to take a 17-16 halftime lead.
Senior Bailey Shepherd paced the Eagles with 12 points, along with 8 rebounds and 4 steals.
“Bailey Shepherd has become such a consistent scoring threat, play maker and defensive force that at times I think we almost take for granted that she is going to go out and get double-figures night in and night out,” Honhart said. “These are not easy points as defenses often place extra emphasis on her. When we play zone, she does a great job of harassing the other team’s guards into making mistakes, so she is always a difference-maker for us at both ends of the court. She is also a great teammate – watch how excited she gets anytime a teammate scores; she will always point at them as she sprints back down the floor to play defense.”
Senior Ashley Earley provided the leadership on the defensive end of the floor.
“Ashley Earley continues to be a leader at the defensive end, and she came up with 7 rebounds along with an assist,” Honhart said.
Freshman Olivia Baumann had 5 rebounds and 2 assists.
Eaton trailed 26-23 heading to the fourth quarter, but limited the Rams to just one point.
“Our fourth quarter was a key, and guard Ali Mowen came up big,” he said. “We started the quarter down three and outscored Ross 11-1. Ali hit a game-tying three on an out of bounds play designed for her. She also scored a break away layup late, following perfect execution of a sideline play, to take the lead from 3 to 5 in the closing seconds before we finished off the 34-27 win. Ross is a well-coached, disciplined team and this has become a fun rivalry game for both schools, so it was good to get out of there with a win.
Against Monroe, Eaton won for first the first time since December 2015 on the Hornets home floor.
“Going into this game, as coaches, we were asking our players to raise their level of play and to embrace the physicality that we knew we would face from Monroe. We wanted to be the more physical team and we wanted to get better shots than we allowed them to take. Monroe has very skilled players, they do a great job of pressuring the ball defensively and hitting the boards hard, yet we managed to accomplish our goals and that led to a hard-fought, exciting win,” Honhart said. “We out-rebounded Monroe 34-25 and our effective field goal shooting percentage was 47 percent, while we held them to 32 percent. We also had our best game at the free throw line, which is always critical in close games.”
Eaton raced out to a 10-4 lead after the first quarter and the game was tied at 16-all at the half.
“Throughout the course of the game, we would build a lead and Monroe would fight back. While we allowed them to tie it at halftime, they never took the lead from us and the poise to withstand another team’s run and then answer with a run of your own, especially on the road, is a mark of a mentally tough team,” Honhart said.
Eaton grabbed a 27-20 lead after three quarters.
“At halftime we talked about the poise and togetherness and leadership that would be needed to finish off this win in a tough environment, and our players delivered. We did a great job on defense of bothering their shooters and protecting the rim.”
Junior Lexi Miller had a career high 4 blocks, along with 4 defensive rebounds and 6 points.
“As coaches, we are getting excited to see Lexi falling in love with playing defense,” Honhart said.
Baumann had 9 rebounds overall, along with 2 steals.
“As a freshmen, it was her first exposure to a highly physical style of play around the basket, and she really embraced it,” Honhart said.
Earley had 5 rebounds, 3 steals and 5 points.
“She is such a difference-maker for us on the floor. She gives us a calming presence and is just such a smart player. During her 25 minutes, we outscored Monroe by 10 points,” Honhart said.
“On the offensive end, we need to take much better care of the basketball, but we did a really good job of getting the right players the right shots,” Honhart said.
Bailey Shepherd provided consistency with 16 points on 7 of 15 shooting, along with 4 steals, 4 rebounds and 3 assists.
According to Honhart, Mowen, a sophomore, provided poise at the guard spot, while coming up big in the 4th quarter by knocking down two three-pointers and going 7 of 8 at the line in the closing minutes to seal the win. Her 16 points was a career high.
Honhart also praised the play of junior Kylee Kidwell, sophomore Mara Posey and freshman Lily Shepherd, while noting the leadership and support from senior Rilee Worley.
“Kylee Kidwell, Mara Posey and Lily Shepherd provided good minutes throughout the game and our bench enthusiasm was outstanding,” Honhart said. “Senior Rilee Worley has a lot to do with that. She may not play a lot of minutes, but she is one of the most team-first players I’ve ever coached and she is a tone-setter in that manner for everyone else.”
Eaton (6-0, 2-0 SWBL) will be tested this week as they face Bellbrook (6-1, 2-1) and Franklin (4-2, 3-1).
“Season-wise, we have divided the season into sections and we treated the first five games as the ‘First Quarter.’ Our players accomplished that goal by winning all five. Now we are 1-0 in the ‘Second Quarter’ with Bellbrook and Franklin coming to Eaton this weekend,” he said. “Both teams were picked ahead of us in the coaches poll (as was Monroe) so we are excited for the opportunity to see how we stack up with these teams. Bellbrook is such a basketball factory, and Jason Tincher does such a great job of reloading each year and coaching them up to championship level. Franklin was on top of the league last year, they are well-coached by John Rossi, and I think their returning players are eager to prove that while Layne Ferrell was a great leader, the rest of them are really good basketball players too,”
Eaton will host Bellbrook on Thursday with a junior varsity start time of 6 p.m. And a varsity tip time of approximately 7:15 p.m.
Franklin visits Eaton on Saturday for a noon junior varsity tip and a 1:15 p.m. Varsity start time.
“We would love to see huge, enthusiastic crowds at Eaton this week, bringing tons of positive energy for our young women on the court,” he said.
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or follow on Twitter @emowen_RH