WEST ALEXANDRIA — Eaton’s season opener came down to the wire in a 61-59 loss to the Dixie Greyhounds in the Twin Valley South Tip-Off Tournament on Friday, Nov. 27.
Despite a 14 point, 12 rebound double-double from junior Breyden Boston, the Eagles fell victim to Dixie’s 2-3 zone defense, forcing Eaton to shoot often from beyond the arc, but connecting on just 5-of-20 from that range.
“Their zone definitely disrupted us,” Eaton coach Denny Shepherd said. “Their 2-3 zone, they pretty much played it all four quarters. I would consider our team a better three-point shooting team than what we displayed. From the beginning, our defensive effort wasn’t what it needed to be. Their 2-3 disrupted us on offense.”
Eaton took a 52-51 lead with just over three minutes remaining, but two turnovers and a foul on their next three possessions led to Dixie retaking the lead 59-52.
Dixie made things close with a late five-second violation, and a three-pointer from Eaton senior Travis Pittman and free throws by Eaton senior Trevor Long made it a two-point game.
Time ran out for the Eagles, however, as they were forced to foul as the Greyhounds ran the clock out, taking the win 61-59.
“I felt like the kids worked hard, all the way to the last tip,” Shepherd said. “We were still only down by one score at the end, but it just felt like – I go back to their 2-3. It disrupted us, and we couldn’t get in flow almost all night.”
The Eagles fell behind early 17-5, but three-pointers from Pittman and Long helped the Eagles cut the deficit to 19-14 at the end of the first quarter.
After baskets by Boston and Long and a three-pointer from Pittman, the Eagles took a 21-20 lead, their first of the game.
From there, however, the Greyhounds went on a 14-5 run to take a 34-26 lead at the half.
“We battled back, we took the lead, and it just seemed like every time we got there, got the lead, we’d go two or three possessions – I mean, there with three minutes left to go, we’re up one, we have two fast breaks, and we get nothing out of it,” Shepherd said. “That’s when varsity players have to step up and get it done.”
Though Eaton could not pull off the win, it was still an impressive showing for Boston with his double-double in addition to two blocks on 5-of-6 shooting.
“He did a very nice job. To have 14 points and 12 rebounds – he got a double-double – and you don’t get a win, I felt we should have went to him a few more times,” Shepherd said. “Again, we’d love to have the win with that, but it just didn’t happen.”
Whistles also blew freely during Friday’s game with 23 fouls assessed against the Eagles and 19 assessed to Dixie.
With that, it was a busy night at the free-throw line, with Dixie hitting 16-of-25 (64 percent) shots while Eaton struggled, connecting on just 10-of-21 (47 percent).
“We’ve got to work on our free throws,” Shepherd said. “We make those, [and] in the fourth quarter we’re ahead. That little bit of cushion maybe gives us a little bit more confidence to finish out the ball game a little bit different.”
Shepherd said the Eagles are still trying to knock off some rust.
“I definitely thought we would play better than what we did, but from the get-go their 2-3 disrupted us even though we worked on it and did different things,” he said. “Still trying to get 16, 17, 18-year-old boys to do it and do it more consistently. We’re gonna keep working hard and get better and hopefully, somebody else puts a 2-3 [zone] on us and we perform better after this.”
Eaton will return home to face Brookville on Tuesday, Dec. 8 at 7:15 p.m.
Reach Braden Moles at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @BradenMoles