By Wade Linville –
In a battle to claim the top spot in the Southern Hills Athletic Conference big school division, it was the Eastern Lady Warriors playing host to last year’s SHAC Division I champion Lynchburg-Clay Lady Mustangs in what was nearly a packed house at Eastern High School on Jan. 9. Both teams entered Tuesday’s league bout unbeaten in SHAC play, and when the smoke finally cleared and the final buzzer was sounded, it was the home standing Lady Warriors staking claim to a 50-46 victory to up their conference record to 7-0 on the season.
“I’m very proud of the kids. They stayed with the game plan and executed,” Eastern head coach Kevin Pickerill said following Tuesday’s exciting conference win. “We didn’t get scared and we didn’t panic. We just stayed with what we were doing. We told the kids that they were going to make runs and they made several, but we had some counters.”
Leading the way in scoring in the win was Eastern’s 6’1” junior court star Allison Day, who fired for 20 points by sinking eight field goals and connecting on four-of-five attempts from the charity stripe.
Also shooting for double figures for the Lady Warriors and playing a key role in Tuesday’s win was Eastern’s 6’1” junior post player Mikayla Farris who buried six field goals in the paint to finish with 12 points.
It was a close bout throughout, as the Lady Warriors found themselves clinging tight to a 9-7 lead at the end of the first quarter following a bucket by Farris.
The Lady Warriors went on to outscore the Lady Mustangs 10-7 in the second quarter to hold a 19-14 lead at halftime.
After applying a great deal of full-court defensive pressure in the first half with hopes of pushing their transition game with hopes of driving up the score, the Lady Mustangs came out in a two-three zone to start the second half. While the Lady Warriors were successful in keeping Lynchburg’s sophomore star and leading scorer Peyton Scott tied down, it was Lynchburg senior McKayla Binkley heating up in the third quarter to lead a Lady Mustang charge. McKayla Binkley buried four field goals from inside the arc and drained a pair of three pointers in the third frame in the Lady Mustang rally. The Lady Mustangs went on to outscore Eastern 17-11 in the third frame, and entering the fourth quarter it was Eastern trailing 31-30.
The Lady Warriors kicked off the fourth quarter with an old fashioned three-point play by Day that left Lynchburg trailing 33-31.
Eastern sophomore Morgan Reynolds was later fouled on a shot and went to the charity stripe to sink her first shot, but Day was there for the rebound and put-back on the missed free throw that followed to expand the Lady Warriors’ lead to 36-31.
A three-pointer by Lynchburg senior Hannah Binkley followed, cutting the Eastern lead to 36-34.
McKayla Binkley scored on a drive to the hoop to tie the game at 36 with just over five minutes left on the clock, and then it was Lynchburg freshman Zoe Fittro knocking down a bucket after an Eastern turnover to put the Lady Mustangs on top 38-36.
The Lady Warriors then looked to Day to deliver the tying basket, and the Eastern star delivered by sinking a shot in the paint to tie the game at 38.
After a bucket by Fittro restored a two-point Lynchburg lead, it was Day rebounding a teammate’s miss and sinking the put-back to tie the game at 40 apiece.
With 2:20 remaining, it was Reynolds grabbing a steal and scoring on transition to give the Lady Warriors a 42-40 lead.
The full court pressure defense that seemed to cause a few problems for the Lady Warriors early on in the game didn’t have the same effect in the fourth quarter. The Lady Warriors were able to break through the Mustangs full-court press that led to an easy bucket by Farris that lifted the Lady Warriors to a 44-40 lead.
With 1:13 to play, it was Farris coming through with another field goal from down low to expand the Eastern lead to 46-40.
A three-pointer by the Lady Mustangs would quickly trim the Eastern lead to 46-43 with around a minute to go.
Some clutch free throw shooting by Reynolds helped to seal the Lady Warrior victory, as the Eastern guard managed to drain four shots from the charity stripe while shooting in the bonus in the final minute of play.
A set of hit free throws by Reynolds put the Lady Warriors up 50-43 with 22.7 seconds to go in the fourth quarter.
Hannah Binkley was able to drain a three-pointer in the final seconds, but it was the Lady Warriors holding on for the four-point victory.
“I thought in the fourth quarter we really executed. Even when they took the lead we stayed within our game plan,” said Pickerill.
Holding Scott well below her season average was something Pickerill and his Lady Warriors knew had to be done to come away with a win over the Lady Mustangs, and different defensive looks would help to limit open shots.
“We challenged every shot. I thought we did a good job checking her (Scott) out and making sure she didn’t get any easy ones,” said Pickerill.
The Lady Warriors entered Tuesday’s game against Lynchburg-Clay coming off a 66-26 conference win over the Ripley-Union-Lewis-Huntington Lady Jays from Jan. 7.
The Lady Warriors get a short break from SHAC play as they take on Lucasville, Georgetown, Paint Valley, and compete in the Fairland Classic over the next week before paying host to the West Union Lady Dragons in a conference game on Jan. 23.
The Lady Warriors will venture to Lynchburg-Clay High School on Jan. 26 for their rematch against the Lady Mustangs.
LCHS 7 7 17 15 – 46
EHS 9 10 11 20 – 50
Lynchburg (46): M. Binkley 7 1-3 17, H. Binkley 5 0-0 13, Scott 2 2-2 7, Fittro 3 0-0 7, Pinkerton 1 0-0 2. Three-pointers: M. Binkley 2, H. Binkley 3, Scott 1, Fittro 1. Team: 18 3-5 46.
Eastern (50): Day 8 4-5 20, Farris 6 0-0 12, Reynolds 1 7-10 9, Pennington 3 1-2 7, Rose 1 0-0 2. Team: 19 12-17 50.