TOLEDO — On a bad shooting night, Eastwood has numerous athletes who can still find a way to score.
One athlete the Eagles can always count on is 6-foot-3 senior Jacob Meyer, who had a double-double 33 points and 11 rebounds in a 55-42 Division III district final win over Cardinal Stritch at Central Catholic’s Sullivan Center Saturday.
“Kudos to the guys. They executed the gameplan that we put in place. It was fun to see,” Eastwood coach Todd Henline said.
Eastwood, 22-3, heads to the regional tournament at Bowling Green State University’s Stroh Center for an 8 p.m. contest Wednesday against Ottawa-Glandorf, 62-44 winners over Wayne Trace in Lima.
It is Eastwood’s third trip to the regional tournament in 60-plus years of high school boys basketball. The Eagles have never won a regional game, losing in the regional semifinals in 1960 and 2015.
Meyer says the goal is to make history and get that first historic regional tournament victory.
“It feels great. We’ve all been thinking about this since we’ve been kids — 2015 when the last team made it, so this is going to be really special for us,” Meyer said.
It won’t be easy. O-G (23-2) finished ranked second in Ohio in the final Associated Press poll and has made seven appearances at the state final four, winning three championships.
On Dec. 28 in Ottawa, O-G defeated Eastwood, 66-49, in a non-league game, but the score was close through three quarters. Henline says preparing will be key.
“I am going to let the kids enjoy this a little bit then we are going to go back to work tomorrow night and figure out a gameplan,” Henline said.
“The nice thing is we played O-G and they are a really solid ballclub and we are going to have to play well to beat them.”
Getting past Stritch (18-8) was no walk in the park for the Eagles. After shooting 60% from the field in a district semifinal win over Liberty Center, shots were not falling for the Eagles early on.
Thursday, Eastwood shot 44% (21-for-48) against Stritch—not 60%, but not bad either.
“To be honest, in the first half we probably left 10 or 12 bunnies that really normally we would finish on those,” Henline continued.
Eastwood made only 11-of-20 free throws (55%), too. The Eagles had just one three-point goal in each half, so when long range shots weren’t falling, the Eagles resorted to their inside game.
“We just had to focus on taking care of the ball, getting looks that we knew we could convert on, or just trying to find the best shot as possible,” Meyer said.
“Yeah, they weren’t falling, but we were doing our best to get good looks.”
Eastwood also had 13 turnovers, including eight in the second half, and Meyer says the credit goes to Stritch.
“Cardinal Stritch is really quick, they give a lot of ball pressure, really get up into you, they force a lot of turnovers, and they are a really good team, and they are playing well this time of year,” Meyer said.
“It was a pretty tough opponent, for sure,” Meyer added.
Henline says the Eagles had to be wary of the Cardinals’ offense, too, which was led by sophomore guard Tommie Taylor, who hit three treys in the fourth quarter and finished with 14 points.
Junior guard Christian Burton was 9-for-10 at the line, accounting for all his nine points, and 6-4 junior forward Kam Hughes had seven points and five rebounds.
“Stritch posed a couple different problems, in my opinion,” Henline said.
“They’re transition game is really good and their guards’ ability to get in the paint, shoot, and create for themselves was a concern, and then their rebounding — all three of those things.
“In the first half I thought we defended all three of those things really well,” Henline said.
Eastwood led by just four, 15-11, after the first stanza but pulled away to a 31-15 lead at halftime.
Eastwood 6-5 senior center Gavin DeWese scored in the paint on a feed from Meyer late in the third to put the Eagles up 40-22.
Stritch never gave up, getting the lead down to 11, forcing five fourth quarter turnovers, but could never get the margin to within single digits.
“I thought we played a really good first half and in the second half we did enough to get by with a ‘W,’” Henline said.
“We didn’t execute down the stretch. They are a really good team. They are a young team, but they’re going to be dangerous.”
The Cardinals, which start all underclassmen, shot even worse than the Eagles, making 12-of-46 field goals (26%), 12-of-14 (86%) from the charity stripe, and had 11 turnovers.
Eastwood controlled the glass by a 39-26 count with DeWese becoming a monster on the boards, scoring five points and grabbing 14 caroms.
For the Eagles, junior guard Case Boos had five points, four rebounds and two steals and his older brother, senior guard Lake Boos, had four points and five rebounds.
Senior forwards Emmet Getz and Andrew Arntson contributed four points each for the Eagles.
For Stritch, junior guard Owen Carter came off the bench to score six points, all in the first quarter, and junior forward Breon Hicks had two points and two steals.
Senior guard Demontri Whitehead and sophomore guard Owen Yost added two points each for the Cardinals. Yost had five rebounds.
First-year Stritch coach Sedron Harris dealt with plenty of adversity after former coach Jamie Kachmarik took the coaching position at Toledo St. Francis, but he gave credit to Eastwood.
“They were the better team and they beat us,” Hedron said. “We didn’t meet our goal, obviously, but hats off to my coaching staff and the boys here.
“We dealt with adversity, different people left us, different people doubted us, so we just did our part. We just believed, we played basketball and competed in every game.”