NEW CARLISLE — A quick start propelled Eaton’s girls’ basketball team to a 60-50 win over Urbana in the first round of the girls Division II sectional basketball tournament on Thursday, Feb. 13, at Tecumseh High School.
The third-seeded Eagles, led by senior Bailey Shepherd’s 20 points and a career high 17-point effort from sophomore Allison Mowen, raced out to a 9-0 lead just over two minutes into the game and never looked back.
With the win, Eaton (18-5) was scheduled to play No. 10 seed Graham in the sectional final on Tuesday, Feb. 18.
“We got off to a quick start, by taking a 9-0 lead, which would wind up being a big key, as Urbana would practically play us even from there,” Eaton coach Dave Honhart said. “We talk about starting fast and finishing strong, and we definitely started fast.”
The Hillclimbers, though, kept the game close throughout.
“Urbana deserves a lot of credit for playing extremely hard and keeping themselves in the game. Anytime it looked like we were going to pull away, they answered,” Honhart said. “Their two guards (Samantha Rooney and Maleah Murphy) can be streaky from the three-point line and both of them shot the ball well. The game was called tighter than we are used to, and it took us a while to adjust, which led to a lot of free throws for Urbana, and they did a good job of knocking them down.”
Urbana shot 30 free throws on the night, including 21 in the second half.
The Hillclimbers were determined to take Shepherd, the Eagles leading scorer away. She scored four points in the first quarter as Eaton built an 18-7 lead. She added eight more in the second as Eaton held a 29-22 lead at the break. She was held scoreless in the third and closed strong scoring her last eight points in the fourth quarter.
“They used a box-and-one defense to make it harder for Bailey to score, but we did a good job of getting her the ball to the tune of 20 points,” Honhart said.
With the Hillclimbers focusing on Shepherd, Eaton got contributions from other players to help maintain its lead.
“Some of the biggest shots of the game were made by Ali Mowen in the third quarter, as she knocked down three three-pointers when Urbana had closed to within two or three possessions. Ali also made 5 of 6 free throws down the stretch as we put the game away,” Honhart said.
Eaton held a 33-27 lead with 3:49 to play in the third before back-to-back three’s from Mowen gave Eaton a 12-point lead at 39-27. Eaton kept the lead between five and 10 points the remainder of the game.
Honhart noted freshman Olivia Baumann and senior Ashley Earley played key roles in the win as well.
“Olivia Buamann did a great job on the glass, pulling down 11 rebounds and Ashley Earley and Bailey Shepherd both chipped in with seven boards,” he said. “As a team, I was pleased to see that we shared the ball and took good care of it, as we wound up with more assists than turnovers. Defensively, I think there is another level we can play at, and I hope to see that level on Tuesday.”
Baumann and Earley each finished with five points.
Junior Lexi Miller added six points and two rebounds.
Despite Graham coming in as the No. 10 seed and having a 3-18 record, Honhart said the Falcons are better than their record indicates.
“The first thing about Graham is this – ignore the record,” Honhart said. “This team has talented players, runs a lot of good stuff, and in the words of Assistant Coach Doug Mize, ‘they look feisty on film.’ Many of their games have been close and they will be a dangerous opponent; it will be important for us to bring our A-Game. They have two strong posts (Lexi King and Elise Kemp) and who catch the ball very well and finish with nice touch. That’s not something we’ve faced a lot this year. Katelyn Nash is their leading scorer and she has been on fire from the 3-point line lately. She’s 8 for 14 over the last three games and 21 of 48 over her last 7 games. Abby Yukon has a nice mid-range game and they run a lot of different effective sets.”
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or follow on Twitter @emowen_RH