PEMBERVILLE — Eastwood junior Kayla Buehler scored 20 points to lead the Eagles to its first Northern Buckeye Conference win, defeating visiting Otsego, 47-22, Thursday.
Buehler has figured out that the two seniors and four juniors on the team must become leaders in a program that graduated a talented senior class last year.
“I think we need to step up and set a good example and it eventually will come together,” Buehler said.
“We do have some good competition this year and our team is just learning to work together. We are young with a lot of new players, so I think we are starting to work together better. Once we can get it to click, we’ll be good.”
Eastwood improves to 2-2 overall and 1-1 in the NBC, while Otsego falls to 1-4 and 0-2.
The Eagles opened a 25-8 halftime lead, forcing 19 Otsego turnovers, and by game’s end the Knights made just five field goals and were guilty of 30 turnovers.
Buehler had five steals, sophomore Kyrie Henline had 14 points and two steals, junior Amelia Ward had four points and four steals, and junior Saylor King scored three points.
Sophomore Jordan Jensen and freshmen Brogan Weaver and Braily Moenter scored two points each and senior Grace Kingery added one point for the Eagles.
Eastwood junior Paige Hoodlebrink did not score, but she had three steals and seven rebounds as the Eagles held a 27-18 advantage off the glass.
Eastwood shot 46% (17-for-37) from the field, 60% (9-for-15) from the free throw line and had 20 turnovers. Otsego made 5-of-23 (22%) from the floor, and 11-for-19 (58%) from the charity stripe.
Otsego coach Eric Simon noted that many of his team’s 18 misses were shots in the paint.
“There were points in the first half where we missed a bunch of layups, but we’re getting there,” Simon said.
For the Knights, sophomore post Sam Lehr had eight points and three steals and sophomore guard Sophie Dimick scored seven points with three steals.
Otsego sophomore guard Morgan Hillesheim had three points and four rebounds, junior post Rylee Brown scored two points, and senior guard Lauren Hillesheim and sophomore post Savannah Villarreal added one point each.
The Eagles and Knights are coming from different perspectives. Last year, the Eagles were in the hunt for a league title with Lake and Elmwood. This year, the Eagles lost their NBC opener to Lake, 40-37.
“It didn’t help that we had 12 turnovers at the half,” Eastwood first-year coach Brittany Butler said. “We missed some free throws, we were 3-of-12 from the line, and we missed eight layups, so when you break the game down like that, that’s what it comes down to.
“We were right there in that game. I’ll be excited to see them again. I think it’s really going to come down to our pressure and there are a couple things we need to fix offensively.
“But I think our kids are working hard and they are getting better every day. It’s just we have kids in new roles, so they are just trying to understand different aspects and pieces that we are throwing at them.”
This year, Butler thinks the NBC title could be up for grabs, but Fostoria and Woodmore look like teams that have had good starts and will be involved.
“It’s going to be anybody’s night. It is going to come down to who wants it the most,” Butler said.
“It’s just going to come down to who is playing well that night, defensively who is getting after it, and offensively who can convert those defensive stops into points.”
Last year, Otsego was starting several freshmen, but the program has grown up a little this year. Simon has a plan to build the program.
“Everything is on schedule. The lumps are hard to take. We have a full freshman team and 22 in the program,” Simon said.
“Last year we had running clock most of the second halves. I remember joking with the girls many times last year that I just want to coach in the fourth quarter,” Simon continued.
“I mean, we’re still losing games, but we are a lot more competitive. That is our theme this year, ‘compete day in and day out at practice and outplay other teams.”
Simon said work is being done at the youth levels, too.
“We have first through third grade camps going, we have fourth through sixth grade teams who are building. We are getting back there,” Simon said.