NEW CARLISLE — It was a heartbreaking end to another successful tournament run for Eaton’s girls’ basketball team.
The No. 4 seeded Eagles built a 17-point lead early in the third quarter against No. 3 Trotwood only to see the Rams complete a comeback to hand Eaton a disappointing 68-67 loss in a Division II district semifinal at Tecumseh on Monday, Feb. 22.
“What a great game. It was heartbreaking to wind up on the wrong side of it. It is rare that you play your best basketball in the last few weeks of the season, but we did,” Eaton coach Dave Honhart said. “We really gelled over the last three weeks, both on and off the floor. It is even more rare when you lose your last game of the season and you’re able to say that you played your best game of the season, but we did.”
Eaton, which was seeking its first-ever appearance in a district final, finished the season 10-15.
Five Eagles ended in double figures as they built an early 11-2 lead and held a 16-9 lead after the first quarter.
Sophomore Olivia Baumann had a team-high 20 points and 18 rebounds. Sophomore Lily Shepherd added 11 points and six rebounds.
Seniors Alexis Miller, with eight rebounds, and Kylee Pitsinger each added 10 points. Junior Allison Mowen tallied 10 points with four rebounds and three assists. Senior Kylee Kidwell contributed four points and four assists.
Eaton opened the second half with an 8-2 run to extend its lead to 41-24 with 6:25 to play. Eaton still led 49-36 with 2:50 remaining in the third before the Rams begin making shots and turning up the pressure on defense. Trotwood closed the quarter with an 11-2 run to get within 51-47.
Trotwood took its first lead of the game, 62-61, with 4:36 to play.
From there, the game went back and forth, with Eaton tying the game at 62-62, followed by Trotwood going back in front 64-62 with 2:58 left. Eaton then scored the next four points to take a 66-64 lead with 2:14 left.
After forcing a Trotwood miss, Eaton grabbed a rebound with just under two minutes to play, but a turnover led to an easy Trotwood basket to tie the game at 66-all.
The Rams took the lead 68-66 with 1:12 left. The Eagles kept fighting and closed to within 68-67 with 43 seconds left to set up a wild finish.
The Rams ran the clock down to 10 seconds before missing a wide open layup as Eaton was trying to force a turnover.
Eaton grabbed the rebound and was able to get off a desperation three from just beyond mid-court. The shot come up short, but the Eagles were able to grab the rebound under the basket and get off another shot, which was off the mark as time expired.
“Trotwood simply made one more play than we did. Props to them for fighting their way back into the game,” Honhart said. “I was very pleased with the way our team responded after they caught up. I thought we had it all the way to the end. I am incredibly proud of our players and coaches. Everyone fought like crazy for 32 minutes and played with incredible heart. This became a very special team to be a part of.”
For the game, Eaton shot 44 percent from the field, 72 percent from the foul line and out-rebounded the Rams by double-digits. However, Eaton, in an attempt to play an uptempo game, committed 31 turnovers to only 11 for Trotwood.
Honhart said it was a game both teams will remember for a long time.
“Quite frankly this will be a game that everyone on both sides will remember for the rest of their lives, ” he said. “Coach [Henry] Benton of Trotwood came over to address our players after the loss and I went in their locker room to talk to them after the win. The mutual respect between our two programs is very high. We scrimmage each other every year and we bring out the best in each other. It is never easy to see a season end. We were having so much fun with this group we wanted it to continue.”
Honhart said the leadership of Miller, Pitsinger and Kidwell played on role in the team’s success.
“This team became a reflection of our three seniors, Alexis Miller, Kylee Kidwell and Kylee Pitsinger. They are incredibly selfless, humble leaders, great teammates and awesome competitors. They will all go on to have very successful lives, but they’ve left their mark on this program with the kind of relationships that this team built,” he said.
Honhart said the loss with linger for a while, but the future looks bright for a program that has now won three straight sectional titles.
“It will take a little while to move on from this loss, but the way this team dug deep and found its way to playing the best basketball of the season at the end of the season is something to be very proud of,” Honhart said. “While we will miss our three seniors an awful lot, we also return our top three scorers, in Lily Shepherd, Olivia Baumann and Allison Mowen. We have talented players in the program and a strong group of rising freshmen coming in. Our job as coaches over the off-season will be to make sure that everyone uses this experience as a catalyst and motivator to put in that much more time to get back to this point and beyond.”
Honhart thanked several people who made this season happen.
“I want to thank my high school coaches, Maggie Neanen, Doug Mize and Tim Appledorn for being incredible to work with and the passion and dedication that they pour into this program and these players,” he said. “I also want to thank Athletics Director Travis Miller, Athletics Secretary Ann Kern and Principal Scott Couch for their unending support and how easy they make everything logically at Eaton. It is a great program and community to be a part of.”
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4061 or follow on Twitter @emowenjr