BLANCHESTER — There would be no heartbreak for the East Clinton girls basketball team for a third night in a row.
After losing in heartbreaking fashion to Clinton-Massie on Monday and Bethel-Tate on Tuesday, the Astros used solid defense in the fourth quarter to hold off Blanchester 45-36.
Blanchester raced out of the gates in a hurry, outscoring East Clinton 10-2 in the first 90 seconds.
Following an East Clinton timeout, the Astros closed the quarter with a 10-0 run to take a 12-10 lead after one.
“We jump out to a 10-2 lead, then call a timeout and have seven straight turnovers,” BHS head coach Bradon Pyle said. “We needed to extend that lead and not let them back into the game.”
The game remained tight into the fourth quarter, with neither team taking more than a four-point lead.
Back-to-back pairs of free throws by Blanchester’s Olivia Gundler pulled the Lady Wildcats within two, 36-34, with 3:26 left.
Big baskets by Mackenzie Campbell and Kaitlin Durbin pushed the EC lead back to six, 40-34. Campbell fouled out moments later, which could have halted East Clinton’s momentum down the stretch.
It was East Clinton’s defense that wouldn’t allow the Wildcats back into the game. Blanchester had just one field goal over the final 7:14 of the game.
“That’s what it came down to, just making shots,” BHS head coach Bradon Pyle said. “Getting some girls in foul trouble early didn’t help. It was a combination of things.”
Lana Roy’s basket pulled Blanchester within five, 41-36, with 23.1 left. Free throws by Miranda Beener and Lacey Peterman iced the game for East Clinton.
“We are blessed with some ball-handlers,” EC head coach Jeff Craycraft said. “It could have been a big turning point when Campbell fouled out. She is our leader and she can get us in our sets. She played a pretty good game. She had to chase (BHS guard Elecia) Patton all night long, who is an excellent player. I’m glad to see her graduate.”
Campbell tied sophomore Gracie Boggs for high-scoring honors for EC (8-12 overall, 4-7 in SBC National) with 12 points. Craycraft has been impressed with how Boggs and fellow sophomore Katrina Bowman have progressed throughout the year.
“She getting more confident,” Craycraft said. “She’s playing good defense now. She had some great offensive rebounds. When they are sophomores, you don’t want to give them too much. Bowman has really improved as well and is really under control.”
On Blanchester’s senior night, it was East Clinton’s seniors who Craycraft credited with holding off the Wildcats.
“It’s their toughness,” Craycraft said. “Beener comes off the bench and gives us some valuable minutes. I’ve had Campbell, Durbin, Peterman and Beener since I started coaching at EC. They’ve got a lot of heart, and you can motivate them and they’ll come right back.”
Blanchester (3-15, 2-9) was led by Patton, who scored 15 points and spurred the Lady Wildcats’ fast start. Roy added 10 points.
“Lana Roy, all 5-foot-4, had 13 or 14 rebounds,” Pyle said. “It was very impressive. She played very well. She’s stepped up this year and really improved.”
In addition to Patton, Olivia Gundler and Savanna Shank were honored before the game as the three senior members of the Blanchester basketball team.
Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019
@ Blanchester High School
East Clinton 45, Blanchester 36
(45) EAST CLINTON (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Mackenzie Campbell 5-1-1-12, Kaitlin Durbin 4-0-1-9, Katrina Bowman 0-0-3-3, Lacey Peterman 0-0-7-7, Miranda Beener 0-0-2-2, Gracie Boggs 3-0-6-12. TOTALS 12-1-20-45.
(36) BLANCHESTER (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Elecia Patton 5-4-1-15, Holly Scott 0-0-2-2, Olivia Gundler 0-0-4-4, Lana Roy 5-0-0-10, Savanna Shank 1-0-0-2, Daelyn Staehling 1-0-1-3. TOTALS 12-4-8-36.
Matt Sexton covers high school sports for the News Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bymattsexton.