BIDWELL, Ohio — Ball control in crunch time often decides the outcome.
The River Valley girls basketball team committed eight of its 14 turnovers in the fourth quarter Thursday night, as the Lady Raiders fell to non-conference guest Eastern by a 45-34 count.
The Lady Eagles (5-2) never trailed in the game, charging out to a 11-4 lead through eight minute of play. Eastern’s lead grew to nine points just two minutes into the second quarter, but River Valley (6-2) put together an 8-2 run that trimmed the deficit to 17-15 with 2:45 remaining in the first half. The Lady Eagles made a three-pointer and a two-pointer in the final 30 seconds of the half to push the advantage to 22-15 at halftime.
Eastern was outrebounded 6-to-3 in the third period, but the Lady Raiders were only able to shrink the deficit by one point and the Silver and Black trailed 33-27 with one quarter left.
River Valley hit a pair of free throw in the opening minute of the the final period, cutting the deficit to four points, but the Lady Raiders were held scoreless until the :41 mark of the finale, as Eastern built the lead to 42-29. RVHS cut the lead to 10 points with an old-fashioned three-point play, but the Green and Gold hit three free throws over the final 40 seconds to cap off the 45-34 victory.
“That was one of the better games that we’ve played all year,” EHS head coach John Burdette said. “In the fourth quarter, down the stretch, when they needed to step it up they didn’t falter and they didn’t slow down. That’s what they need to do.”
EHS junior Laura Pullins paced the Lady Eagles with 15 points and seven rebounds, followed by Rebecca Pullins with nine points and Madison Williams with seven points. Jess Parker and Kelsey Casto both finished with six points, while Elizabeth Collins posted two points and six rebounds.
RVHS senior Shelby Brown led the hosts with 17 points and nine rebounds, followed by Leia Moore with six points and eight boards. Erin Jackson finished with three points, while Courtney Smith Jaden Neal, Tianna Qualls and Maggie Campbell each finished with two markers in the setback.
“It seemed like we were trying too hard to make something happen that wasn’t there,” RVHS head coach Sarah Evans-Moore said of the fourth quarter. “One of our keys to the game was taking care of the basketball. Going down the stretch when you’re trying to close the gap, we can’t afford that kind of thing.”
Laura Pullins and Williams each had three assists, while Rebecca Pullins and Parker both marked two assists. Laura Pullins also led the Lady Eagle defense with three steals one block, followed by Parker with three steals and Williams with two steals.
Smith finished with team-high in assists with four and steals with three, while Brown added two assists for RVHS.
Eastern shot 7-of-16 (43.8 percent) from the free throw line and 18-of-43 (41.9 percent) from the field, including 2-of-15 (13.3 percent) from beyond the arc. As a team EHS had 13 defensive rebounds, seven offensive boards, 11 assists, nine steals, one block and 11 turnovers.
“We’re getting a little smarter with the basketball,” said Burdette. “Once they understand everything we’re trying to do, we’re going to be a pretty good basketball team. I thought the teamwork out there tonight was a lot better than it has been. It didn’t matter who, what or where and that’s what I was happy with.”
River Valley shot 4-of-6 (66.7 percent) from the free throw line and 14-of-39 (35.9 percent) from the field, including 2-of-17 (11.8 percent) from beyond the arc. The Silver and Black combined for 18 defensive rebounds, six offensive rebounds, six assists, eight steals and 14 turnovers.
“We just need to keep working hard,” Evans-Moore said. “We’ve got to have a more aggressive mentality from the start. I think we’re too passive when the game starts and that’s something we need to change.”
Eastern, which hosted Wahama on Saturday, returns to action on Monday when Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division leader Waterford visits the nest. River Valley hosted Point Pleasant on Saturday and will return to TVC Ohio Division action on Monday, when Vinton County visits Bidwell.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.