EATON — A 24-0 run to begin the game by Valley View all but decided the outcome of Friday’s game against Eaton, as the Spartans would go on to win 56-37 in the teams’ season openers on Nov. 20.
While the Eagles did not fare well in their first action of the season, it should be noted that it came against the defending SWBL Southwestern Division Champions who went 12-0 in conference play last season.
“I think you have to give Valley View a lot of credit,” Eaton coach Dave Honhart said. “They’re looking to win another championship. They won the league and went undefeated last year. They didn’t have the ending that they wanted in the tournament and it looks like a team that is hungry to go out and fight for another championship and go further, and they look like a team that really put in a lot of time in the offseason.”
Valley View came out strong both offensively and defensively, getting inside and earning trips to the free-throw line as they limited Eaton’s ability to make shots, holding the Eagles scoreless until there were less than three minutes remaining in the opening quarter.
“We came out and I think we were excited to play, but I think that we were a little tentative, and a little tentative against the team like that makes a big difference,” Honhart said. “So, give them credit.”
Many of the early struggles were due to losing possession via either a steal by the Spartans or passes not finding their intended targets.
Valley View stole the ball on both of Eaton’s first two possessions and finished with four steals in the first quarter, allowing just 4 points by the Eagles as they trailed 28-4 at the end of the first quarter.
“I don’t think [the turnovers are] unforced,” Honhart said. “I think that’s a credit to their defense, and I think we have to get stronger with the basketball. We have to continue to improve just with basic ball handling fundamentals. That’s why we practice.”
Though the Eagles were down early, they showed resolve throughout the rest of the game, outscoring Valley View 33-28 over the final three quarters as they made it to the free-throw line 11 times, making 15-of-22.
Junior Anna Kramer led Eaton with 9 points off the bench as sophomore Lily Shepherd added 8 points, sophomore Olivia Baumann scored 6 points and junior Allison Mowen and senior Alexis Miller each added 5 points.
Junior Julianne Couch and senior Kylee Pitsinger scored 2 points each while senior Kylee Kidwell added 1 point.
“As the game went on, we figured out how to compete at this level. We have a lot of talent. I like where our team can go,” Honhart said. “I like the way that we competed in the second half, but yeah, that start turned it into a game where now it’s just [figuring] out how to compete and win possessions.”
It wasn’t the way Eaton wanted to begin the season, but the opening draw of Valley View makes it challenging to accurately assess the Eagles.
The Spartans will likely be the best team Eaton faces until a rematch with Valley View scheduled for Jan. 30, 2021, but this game gives the Eagles and Coach Honhart plenty to work on going forward.
“For starters, we have got to be able to defend better. Not that we weren’t working hard, but we have to control where they go,” Honhart said. “Valley View got the ball where they wanted, they were able to cut where they wanted. Credit to them, but we have to take that away. Offensively, we just have to improve our ability to knock down open shots, hit the open person. Basic basketball fundamentals. Part of it is a really good team exposes your weaknesses. We lost a lot of scoring last year. We lost some incredible leaders, and we have the potential for that with this group.”
Reach Braden Moles at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @BradenMoles