Prep girls basketball: Eagles top Cats

By Jordan Holland

The Marietta Times

WATERFORD – The Eastern Lady Eagles showed why they are the second-ranked team in Ohio Division IV Thursday night as they dominated the Waterford Lady Wildcats 75-44 to clinch at least a share of the Tri-Valley Conference-Hocking Division.

The Eagles’ defense, along with some mental errors by the Wildcats, forced Waterford into 28 turnovers in the game. Waterford had seven of those turnovers in the first quarter and 15 in the first half which helped Eastern pull ahead by 20, 42-22, at halftime.

“(Eastern’s) intensity on defense causes a lot of pressure,” Waterford head coach Jerry Close said. “We were able to get past it a lot and either fumble it away or make a pass and fumble it out of bounds. We’ve just got to get better under pressure.

“We’ve got to get rid of the unforced turnovers and learn to settle down.”

The Wildcats also had no answer for Jenna Burdette, who scored 28 points, grabbed six rebounds and dished out four assists.

Burdette scored 14 points during a 23-8 second quarter run which helped the Eagles put the game out of reach.

Mariah Starkey led Waterford with 15 points. Eastern held Waterford’s top two scorers, Dani Drayer and Regan Porter, to 10 and three points, respectively, in the contest.

Eastern’s Erin Swatzel and Katie Keller combined for seven blocked shots to help limit Waterford’s inside game.

“(Eastern’s) post players definitely hurt us,” Close said.

Hannah Dailey scored the first four points of the game to give the Wildcats the early lead. Later, Jordan Parker assisted Maddie Rigsby on a basket and then put in a bucket of her own to give the Eagles their first lead of the game, 6-5.

Taylor Hilverding made a layup off a nice feed from Randee Seevers to put Waterford back on top, but Burdette scored three straight points to put Eastern ahead 9-7.

Mariah Starkey hit a jumper and Drayer knocked down a 3-pointer to give the ‘Cats their final lead of the night, 12-9, as Parker and Laura Pullins answered with back-to-back treys.

After Burdette and Hilverding traded buckets, Keller made a pair of foul shots to put the Eagles up 19-14 after one quarter.

Rigsby nailed a jump-shot to open the second period before Burdette poured in seven straight points to open up a 14-point lead, 28-14, for Eastern.

Starkey momentarily stopped the bleeding with a layup, but Burdette fired right back with another triple.

Later, Drayer intercepted a pass and took it the length of the court for a layup followed by two free throws from Starkey to cut Eastern’s lead to 37-22. Burdette, though, stretched the lead to 20 by making a layup and assisting Swatzel on a 3 just before the end of the half.

Hilverding opened the third quarter with a layup, but Eastern responded with 11 unanswered points, led by a pair of 3-pointers from Swatzel, to go up by 29, 53-24.

The Wildcats were unable to rally back as Eastern completed the season sweep of its conference rival.

“The good news is we wouldn’t have to play (Eastern) again until regionals,” Close said.

“We’ve got a lot of things we need to work on between now and next week.”

Eastern went 29-for-60 (48.3 percent) from the floor compared to Waterford’s 17-for-48 (35.4 percent).

Waterford fell to 11-7 and will look to bounce back against South Gallia on “Senior Night” Saturday. Eastern’s next contest will be at Belpre Saturday as it will try to pick up its 20th victory of the season in 21 tries.