Brock Netter, Staff Writer
WAVERLY — “I don’t know if we could play any worse or shoot any worse, but what matters is that we had one more point than they did.”
That comment from coach John Bonifield came after his Waverly Tigers shot just 25 percent from the floor, made only five shots and scored just 16 points in the entire second half on Monday.
But, neverthless, Paige Carter buried two free throws with 3.4 seconds left in regulation that allowed the Tigers (5-1, 3-1 SOC II) to survive a furious Eastern rally for a 45-44 victory in SOC II action.
“It breaks my heart that we lost this game because those girls played their tails off and I couldn’t be prouder of them,” Eastern coach Travis Hale said. “They played so hard despite us being in foul trouble and bailing Waverly out a couple times when we shouldn’t have. We’re growing every game and I think the girls are seeing improvement. But it hurts not getting this win for the girls.”
Despite Waverly being in control throughout most of the contest, Eastern (1-6, 0-6 SOC II) forced the Tigers to grind things out and play an ugly game.
With Waverly’s offense needing a spark, it turned to the bench and got just that from Mchaela Rhoads. Trailing 9-7 early, she drilled back-to-back 3’s to give Waverly a 13-9 lead after the first quarter.
“Those were two big shots that we needed,” Bonifield said. “That allowed us to spread the floor a little more and it made Eastern come out and defend us on the perimeter a little more.”
That four-point lead was maintained until the final minute in the second quarter when Waverly began to create what seemed like much-needed momentum.
Leading 23-19, the Tigers scored the final six points of the frame, capped by two free throws from Lydia Brown, for a 29-19 lead at the half.
However, the battle was just truly beginning.
As Waverly’s offense began to sputter, Eastern’s began to gain traction as the Eagles began to claw their way back into things.
Eastern turned to Andee Lester, who scored the first four points of the secnod half before picking up her fourth four.
But the Eagles’ defense, with Lester on the bench in foul trouble, kept Waverly in check and kept the score close at the end of the quarter as the Tigers led 36-28.
“We’ve been working a lot on that 2-3 zone, and we executed our game plan pretty well,” Hale said. “We knew we had to keep [Waverly’s Zoiee] Smith out of the middle and make Waverly shoot from the perimeter. For the most part, we did that and that’s what kept us in the game.”
As the game progressed into the final minutes, Eastern’s set of Cochenours — Abby and Addison — began to make their move.
Abby paced the Eagles from the perimeter while Addison controlled the fight on the glass, offensively and defensively.
With the Tigers still holding the lead and under a minute to go, Addison pulled down an offensive rebound and nailed the putback, cutting the lead to just 43-41.
Then, with 14.5 seconds left, Addison received a kickout from Abby and buried a triple to give Eastern a 44-43 lead.
“That was such a huge shot from Addison, and she played such an unbelievable game,” Hale said. “We had her playing at the top playing pressure, but we moved her down because she’s such a good rebounder. The more confidence she gains as this season goes on, the better we’re going to be. She gives us another weapon and it’s great to see her growing by the game.”
But Addison’s heroics were short-lived as Waverly pushed the ball down the court. Carter was fouled before sinking the two biggest free throws of the night for a Tiger victory.
“We left a lot to be desired, that’s for sure,” Bonifield said. “We had a lot of great looks but couldn’t buy a bucket to save our lives. We were horrible inside the paint and couldn’t convert anything on the first or second shot. One person would miss, then another would miss, and it just spread throughout the whole team. Honestly, if there was another 20 seconds left, I don’t think it would have ended very well for us.”
Carter finished with 11 points and six rebounds to lead the Tigers. Rhoads, Brown and Zoiee Smith each added six points while Smith had seven assists.
Abby Cochenour finished with a game-high 20 points for Eastern while Addison Cochenour added seven points and a game-high 13 rebounds.
Both teams return to action Thursday in SOC II action. Waverly travels to rival Wheelersburg while Eastern pays a visit to West.
Waverly: 13-16-7-9 — 45
Eastern: 9-10-9-16 — 44
Waverly: 12-43 FG, 12-19 FT, 3-14 3pt., 31 rebounds (Stewart 7), 11 turnovers, 7 assists (Smith 7). Scoring: Carter 11, Rhoads 6, Smith 6, Brown 6, Thompson 5, Stewart 4, Knight 4, Tackett 3.
Eastern: 13-34 FG, 3-9 FT, 5-12 3pt., 35 rebounds (Ad. Cochenour 13), 21 turnovers, 7 assists (Ad. Cochenour 3). Scoring: Ab. Cochenour 20, Ad. Cochenour 7, Lester 6, White 6, Greene 4, Dixon 1.