GERMANTOWN — When the season started the idea of Eaton’s girls’ basketball team being in contention for a league title with two games remaining probably didn’t cross the minds of many.
But that was the case last Saturday as the Eagles traveled to league-leader Valley View with a chance to pull within a game of the Spartans and keep their title hopes alive.
The title hopes will have to wait another year though as Eaton’s offense went cold late in the first half and it continued into the second half as Valley View pulled away for a 59-37 win.
“While it hurts to lose a game like this, here’s the thing that makes me incredibly proud of what our players have accomplished: When the season started, I don’t think many people would have given us a very high chance at going up to Valley View for the 11th league game of the season with a chance to play for a league championship. We earned that opportunity by going 8-2 through our first 10 league games. Not bad for a team that was picked 5th by the league coaches,” Eaton coach Dave Honhart said. “This game didn’t turn out the way we wanted, but now our players have had a taste of that big game experience, and that should help us over the next two weeks as we try to finish our regular season strong and build momentum heading into playoffs.”
Eaton fell behind 10-2 in the first four minutes and trailed 18-11 after one. After Valley View pushed its lead to 20-11 early in the second quarter the Eagles went on a 7-0 run to pull within 20-18 with 5:23 to play.
A quick 5-0 run by the Spartans made it a 25-18 game. A Bailey Shepherd basket for Eaton made it a 25-20 with 3:49 left in the half.
Valley View closed out the half with a 9-0 run to take command of the game, 34-20.
Both teams struggled to score in the third quarter and Valley View led 40-25 after three. Eaton struggled going 1-of-16 from the field in the quarter.
Eaton’s offensive woes continued in the fourth. The Eagles were just 3-of -12 from the field.
While Eaton struggled, the Spartans find their touch making 7-of-8 shots to extend the lead.
“I was very proud of our players for the effort that they gave. We didn’t give up and they tried their best to execute the game plan. I have to do a better job of finding ways to get our best players the ball in spots where they are the most dangerous. Valley View is so good defensively that they tend to make you go away from what you do best, but its my job to keep that from happening,” Honhart said. “I thought Bailey Shepherd did an awesome job of creating and knocking down contested shots in the first half against a defense that was focused on stopping her. At halftime we challenged the rest of our players to stretch their comfort zones and be more aggressive offensively and I thought Olivia Baumann really stepped up and took her offensive game to a new level. Rilee Worley played her role very well, grabbing 5 rebounds in 9 minutes, along with one assist against no turnovers. We have been playing very well with Rilee on the court lately; she consistently makes a positive impact on the score. That’s great to see for someone who hasn’t played much over her career, but has been a fantastic, enthusiastic teammate and has really learned how to play within herself and be a contributor.”
The 59 points is the most Eaton has given up in a game this season.
“Defensively, Valley View had the highest effective shooting percentage (51 percent) that anyone has had on us this season,” Honhart said. “We need to make a few adjustments to our defensive game plan, in order to limit their shooting. Our ability to hold teams to low effective field goal percentages has been a key to our success, and it’s my job to figure out how we can do a better job against Valley View. Also, I want to congratulate the Valley View players and coaching staff on clinching a share of the league title with the win. They are an incredibly unselfish group who play together very, very well. I’m excited for the chance to face them again, and then we’ll root them on at sectionals. Hopefully we’ll both make it to Districts in Mason on February 28th.”
Shepherd finished with 12 points, three steals and three rebounds. Baumann added 10 points and five rebounds. Ashley Earley finished with four points and six rebounds and Mara Posey contributed five points. Allison Mowen led the team with four assists.
To get to that point, Eaton had to beat Franklin, at Franklin, on Thursday.
After falling behind early, the Eagles used a 22-2 run that started late in the first quarter and lasted well into the second, to claim a 48-36 win.
“What a win. We got off to a slow start, falling behind 10-4, but then we played a stretch of great basketball, going on a 22-2 run. It was great teamwork, execution and competitive toughness,” Honhart said. “Franklin got a couple baskets at the end of the 2nd quarter and scored the first four points of the 3rd quarter. I had to take a time out and really get on our players a little bit, and they immediately responded, elevating their level of play once again and eventually pushing the lead back up to 17. That’s part of what I love about this team: the buy-in and coachability. Not only did they respond to me challenging them to step up the focus and intensity, but at halftime, both Coach (Maggie) Neanen and Coach (Doug) Mize pointed out areas of the game where we needed to execute better and in the second half, our players did exactly what they were asking for. Franklin is a good team and that is never an easy place to win. They were picked ahead of us in the pre-season coaches poll, so it meant a lot to us to sweep them on the season. It was a total team win. It was good to have Lexi Miller back on the floor for us for extended minutes, as she knocked down a couple threes and snagged 10 rebounds. That’s the kind of game we’re looking for out of her every night. I also thought Mara Posey had a notable game, as she made some key buckets and played her role well.”
Shepherd finished with 19 points, six rebounds and three steals. Posey added eight points. Miller tossed in six and grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds. Baumann had six and four rebounds, while Worley finished with five points.
Eaton (14-3, 8-3 SWBL) was scheduled to host Talawanda on Monday, Jan. 27 and will get another shot at Valley View on Thursday, Jan. 30, at home.
“Talawanda is a dangerous D-1 team. They play in a strong league and they have size. They have a couple of 6-foot wings who drive, score and shoot the ball well, along with a quick point guard and another good shooter,” Honhart said. “They play physical man, and they are very well-coached. At times they struggle with pressure, but we will have our work cut out for us.”
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or follow on Twitter @emowen_RH