EATON — The Eaton Eagles girls’ basketball team is rounding into form as the OHSAA tournament approaches, after earning what head coach Dave Honhart called two “complete team effort victories” against Edgewood on Thursday, Jan. 28 and Valley View on Saturday, Jan. 30.
The Eagles have now won four straight contests after a midseason slump saw them drop four straight.
According to Honhart, the turnaround starts with senior point guard Paige Whitesell.
“Paige Whitesell has been an outstanding player for us on both ends all season long,” Honhart said of the senior.
He added, “Everything starts with your point guard — she does such a nice job of running the show and she has gotten very good and very consistent. It’s easy to take that for granted and you certainly shouldn’t. I feel very comfortable with the ball in her hands and that’s probably the highest compliment a coach can give their point guard.”
On Thursday, Jan. 28, the Eagles earned a “fun, big win” Honhart said, as they defeated the Edgewood Cougars, 38-33.
The Eagles jumped out to an early 7-0 lead before the visitors slowly clawed their way back into the game. Eaton took a 9-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The game was scrappy throughout the contest, with players diving for loose balls anytime possession was up for grabs.
The Eagles kept a small lead most of the way, as the two teams never separated by more than 10 points in the contest.
At halftime the score was Eaton 17, Edgewood 13.
In the third quarter play remained much the same, as Edgewood only scored four points but held the Eagles to just six in the quarter. The teams entered the final period with Eaton leading 23-17.
The teams opened the pace of play in the fourth quarter as Edgewood seemingly exploded on offense for 16 points — but Eaton was able to answer with 15 of their own.
Whitesell led the Eagles with 11 points, four assists and five steals. She also grabbed five defensive rebounds and fellow guard Bailee Worley grabbed six defensive rebounds.
Julia Titus recorded her 12th double-double of the season, scoring a team-high 14 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.
“These have been team wins; everyone is contributing in one way or another,” Honhart said afterward. “This win is one of our biggest wins of the season. They (Eaton) were so emotional and connected throughout the win.”
The Eagles then used an, “outstanding defensive effort,” according to Honhart to earn a 33-22 victory over Valley View.
The teams combined for two points in the first quarter with each side making a free throw. It was 1-1 after one.
“All I talked about after the first quarter was what an outstanding job we were doing on defense,” Honhart said. “I did not mention the struggles on offense, and we came out and played a very good second quarter.”
Apparently his lack of words worked, as Ashlynn Black became a big reason for the turnaround on offense. The mostly-JV player connected on two three pointers to start the second quarter and spark the Eagles’ 17-point second period. Black finished the game with eight points.
The Eagles held the Spartans to just three points in the quarter.
Eaton continued to lock down the Spartans the rest of the game, and allowed just 22 points.
Worley scored seven points in the game while Madi Bowman scored five points and grabbed six rebounds.
Two other keys to the Eagles’ winning streak have been the defensive effort by senior forward Brittany George, whom Honhart calls his “defensive leader” and Worley, who continues to earn varsity playing time by bringing consistent energy and effort on both ends of the floor.
The Eagles close the season out with games at Northmont on Thursday, Feb 4, and at home against Franklin on Saturday, Feb. 6. They are now 12-8 on the season and will have a chance to finish second in the SWBL Southwestern with a win over Franklin and a loss by Oakwood.
Reach Austin Schmidt at 937-683-4062, or on Twitter @aschmidt_RH.