Meyer scores 26 as Eagles advance to district final

TOLEDO — If Eastwood wants to have a historic tournament run, Liberty Center gave the Eagles a good feel of what might be coming down the pipe.

Just like March basketball is supposed to be, every possession counted, but somehow the Eagles overcome 13 second half turnovers to defeat the Tigers, 61-42, at Central Catholic’s Sullivan Center Thursday.

Eastwood, the top seed in the district, takes its 21-3 record into Saturday’s 1 p.m. district final at the Sullivan Center against Thursday’s Cardinal Stritch (17-7)-Genoa (11-13) winner. LC bows out at 11-13.

Eastwood 6-foot-3 senior guard Jacob Meyer, the Northern Buckeye Conference Player of the Year, scored a game-high 26 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead the Eagles.

“Their focus defensively was to focus on him and get physical with him,” Eastwood coach Todd Henline said.

“He did a good job of getting by that first guy and then getting to the rim, and then that really helped him get to the free throw line.”

Eastwood shot 60% (21-for-35) from the field, including six first half triples, and made 13-of-15 free throws (87%). Meyer was 11-for-12 from the line.

“He’s been lights out for us at the free throw line all year,” Henline said. “He’s shot over 120 free throws for us on the season, and he’s shooting at about 86% and 11-for-12 is huge.”

Meyer said, “There are definitely days when they are not falling from the stripe, but it was good they were falling down today.”

Eastwood held a narrow 10-7 lead after one quarter, but the Eagles exploded 24 second quarter points to go up 37-24 at halftime.

“That was huge for our guys. We kind of took control of the pace of the game,” Meyer said.

“At times, we took care of the ball and got what we wanted out of our offense. We turned it over and got into some foul trouble at other times but getting up early really helped us execute down the stretch.”

Eastwood senior forward Andrew Arntson had two first half triples on his way to scoring 14 points and junior guard Case Boos had three first half treys and finished with 13 points and two steals.

“Case Boos shot the crap out of the ball. Andrew Arntson shot the ball really well. Our first half offense was really cooking at all three levels,” Meyer said.

Henline said that the 13-point halftime cushion was good because of what was to come in the second half. The Tigers ratcheted up their defensive pressure after intermission.

“We hit some threes in the second quarter that gave us a little breathing room and allowed us to play through some of our mistakes in not recognizing whether they were in man-to-man or in their matchup zone,” Henline said.

“That cost us some problems, to be honest, and it’s nice to see some of that because we are going to have to be a little quicker at reacting on the fly, so to speak.”

After committing just three turnovers in the first half, Eastwood had seven miscues in the third quarter alone, including six steals by the Tigers’ defense.

“We tried to warn the kids that they are one of the most, if not the most, physical team we’ve played all year,” Henline said.

“They are super aggressive on offense, and they are really aggressive on the glass, and we knew that was going to be a good test for us.

“Give their coach (Greg Badenhop) credit. They were focused and they executed what their coach had them doing.”

Meyer added, “Liberty Center is a great team. They really pressure the ball hard and they are really aggressive out of their half court and a little bit of their full court pressure.

“It was a real physical game, called kind of tight, but both teams were going at it real hard.”

Defensively for Eastwood, the task was to focus on 6-3 junior Aiden Hammontree, which was Eastwood senior guard Lake Boos’ assignment.

Hammontree finished with three points, four rebounds and two steals.

“I asked a lot of Lake defensively. He’s guarded outstanding guards, and you know Hommontree is a tough matchup for anybody,” Henline said.

“He was long enough that he could affect his shooting and he was strong enough inside in the post that Hammontree could not expose him in the post either.

“Lake did a great job defensively which really set the tone for us to do some of the things that we were doing.”

As a result, Liberty Center had just one third quarter field goal and four the entire second half. The Tigers shot 30% (12-for-30) from the field, made 16-of-22 free throws (73%) and had 19 turnovers.

Senior Evan Conrad led the Tigers with 11 points, senior Wyatt Leatherman had 10 points and three steals, and senior Jake Spieth and junior Riley Chaps added six points each.

Eastwood also controlled the boards by a 22-15 count with Lake Boos getting five points, six rebounds, and three steals.

Eastwood senior forward Gavin DeWese had two points, four rebounds and four steals and senior forward Emmet Getz added one point.

Sophomore Landen Kruse had four points and three steals and senior Isaiah Estelle added two points to round out the Tigers scoring.