By Wade Linville –
Coming off a 56-49 league victory over the North Adams Green Devils on Dec. 8 to start off Southern Hills Athletic Conference play this season, the Eastern Warriors fell to a 1-1 record in conference play with a 53-51 road loss to the Manchester Greyhounds on Dec. 12.
The Warriors got off to a slow start in Tuesday’s game at Manchester, being outscored by the Greyhounds 14-7 in the first quarter.
The Warriors battled back in the second period to outscore the Greyhounds 16-14 in the frame, and at halftime it was Manchester leading 28-23.
The Warriors were able to outscore the Greyhounds 28-25 in the second half of play, but they would come up shy of their second league victory of the season.
While there were several Warriors contributing in last Friday’s homecoming victory over North Adams, it was sophomore guard Hunter Ruckel leading the way in scoring with 20 points, 18 of his points coming from impressive shooting from beyond the arc.
Also reaching double figures in scoring in Friday’s win was Eastern sophomore Titus Burns with 11 points.
Eastern’s junior postman Mana Stivers, coming off an injury, contributed eight points off the bench.
Also putting together a solid performance for the Warriors were freshman Colton Vaughn, who finished with six points and six rebounds; junior guard Marcus Hamilton, who finished with four points, one assist, and one rebound; and senior guard T.J. Stivers, who dished out four assists to go along with four points and three rebounds.
Ruckel was hot from the start of Friday’s league bout, sinking his first three-pointer of the night to kick off scoring in the contest.
The Devils answered with a three-pointer by Elijah Smith to tie the game at three apiece, but it was Ruckel pulling down an offensive rebound and burying the put-back to put the Warriors on top, 5-3.
After holding the Devils scoreless, it was Eastern senior Garyn Purdy rifling in a long three-pointer to expand the Warriors’ lead to 8-3.
Just as the Warriors began to pull away, the Green Devils managed to remain within striking distance.
Another three-pointer by Smith sliced the Eastern lead to 8-6, and then it was another Green Devils’ three-pointer that left the Warriors trailing 9-8 near the midway point of the first quarter.
With just under four minutes remaining in the first period, it was Ruckel draining his second three-pointer of the night to put the Warriors back on top, 11-9.
The Devils came through with a score on transition to tie the game at 11 apiece, but it was Hamilton sinking a shot from inside the arc to restore a two-point Eastern lead.
To cap off an exciting first quarter, it was Burns burying a long three-pointer at the buzzer to lift the Warriors to a 16-11 lead.
Hamilton scored on a drive to the hoop to start the second quarter, expanding Eastern’s lead to 18-11.
The seven-point Eastern lead was short-lived, as North Adams’ Ryan Shupert sank a shot from close range and later buried a three-pointer to cut the Warrior lead to 18-16 with just over five minutes to go before halftime break.
Buckets by Vaughn and Mana Stivers lifted the Warriors to a 22-16 lead, then it was T.J. Stivers scoring on a drive to the hoop and finishing off the old fashioned three-point play at the charity stripe to put the Warriors up by nine with 2:22 to go in the second period.
The Warriors rose to an 11-point lead as T.J. Stivers dished out an assist for a field goal by Mana Stivers.
At halftime, the Warriors held a 27-20 lead after the Devils recorded the last two field goals of the second period.
It was North Adams outscoring the Warriors 12-11 in the third quarter, and entering the fourth frame it was Eastern leading 38-32.
The Warriors sealed the seven-point victory by outscoring the Devils 18-17 in the fourth quarter.
While Eastern head coach Rob Beucler saw some good play out of his Warriors in Friday’s win, he felt there are still several things his team needs to improve on as the season rolls along.
“We’re growing. We still have to learn some things and we have some things we need to work on,” said Beucler. “It’s a work in progress.”
A total of 10 Eastern players saw some minutes in the first half of play, as the Warriors got some great play off the bench in Friday’s win.
“I was pleased with the play off the bench in the first half. They gave us a lot of good minutes,” said Beucler.