PEMBERVILLE — Eastwood rebounded from a double-digit deficit to defeat Genoa, 44-42, in both teams’ Northern Buckeye Conference girls basketball opener Friday.
Eastwood 5-foot-7 senior guard Kayla Buehler led the comeback, scoring 23 points, mostly in transition.
When Buehler decides she wants to score, she makes no bones about it, taking off full steam ahead toward the rim.
Buehler had seven rebounds and five steals, often going coast-to-coast after a defensive rebound or getting an easy layup in transition off a steal. The Comets had no answer for her.
“Mainly, I just get the ball and I know I need to score through transition,” Buehler said. “We get a lot of points that way — I think our team does really well transitioning. So, we try to get it out quick and then run the floor.”
Still, the game came down to the wire. Trailing the entire game, Eastwood junior guard Kyrie Henline hit a three-point shot with 20 seconds remaining in the third quarter to knot things up at 33-33.
After Genoa freshman forward Makenna Moritz scored in the paint to open the fourth, Henline then scored on a transition layup and was fouled, finishing off the old-fashioned three-point play to give the Eagles their first lead, 36-35, with 4:47 remaining.
The Eagles never trailed again, but the Comets stayed within two possessions. Eastwood senior guard Saylor King scored on a steal and layup to put Eastwood up, 43-37, with 40 seconds on the clock. But Genoa was not done.
Genoa freshman guard Lucy Schlageter hit a three-pointer with eight seconds remaining to bring the Comets to within two, 44-42.
Eastwood inbounded and called timeout with three seconds remaining. After inbounding again, Makenna Moritz stole the pass and had a good look at a three for the win at the buzzer, but her shot hit the back end of the iron and backboard, bouncing away.
“It was exciting enough to almost give you a heart attack on the sidelines,” joked Eastwood coach Brittany Butler. “We are so proud of our kids. Genoa has a really nice solid group of kids this year and they came out and just fought hard.”
Buehler added, “Going into the game we knew it would be hard, but we just kept at it. It was definitely a team effort from defense to offense.”
Genoa coach Glenn Black hinted that the Eagles finished strong because they were in better shape.
“I thought Eastwood played really hard,” Black said. “I thought they were in better condition than us and they played better down the stretch. Hats off to them — they played really well.”
Genoa stuck it to the Eagles off the opening tip, taking a 15-2 lead right out of the gate, in part because of six offensive rebounds.
“I was proud of our kids because we got down early and with their momentum it could have been a whole different ballgame,” Butler said.
“But, we stayed the course and in the second quarter we limited them to five points and had the momentum going into halftime, then it was back and forth from there in the third quarter. I’m just proud of our kids for staying positive, staying the course and finishing.”
Much of the fourth quarter the Eagles slowed the game down offensively, which paid off, and Eastwood starting crashing the boards harder. Genoa still finished with a 49-44 advantage off the glass.
“I thought offensively we did a better job of being a little bit more patient down the stretch, and we got more on the boards,” Butler said.
“That was our biggest struggle in the first half is we got ate up on the boards. There were some second chance opportunities that just killed us.”
For Eastwood, Henline had six points and six rebounds, King had six points and five steals, and sophomore Piper Sutton had five points and six rebounds.
Eastwood senior Paige Hoodlebrink, who left the game with 1:54 remaining after a collision under the boards, had three points and four steals, and senior guard Amelia Ward added one point.
“We had a huge shot from Kyrie Henline and we just made some defensive stops from Saylor King, Kayla Buehler getting to the rim, and all-around it was just a great team effort,” Butler said.
“Paige Hoodlebrink was another one who did a good job of stepping into the lanes. She’ll be just fine.”
Buehler added, “Our team, from last year to this year we have a lot of the same players. I think we gel really well together. Some of the younger underclassmen who haven’t necessarily played many varsity minutes have stepped up big for us.”
Eastwood shot 33% from the field (18-for-54), made just 6-of-16 free throws (38%) and had 21 turnovers. The Comets shot 29% (17-for-59), made 7-of-13 from the line (54%), and had 25 turnovers.
Eastwood improves to 2-1 overall, while Genoa falls to 1-1. Butler says this game demonstrated how topsy-turvy the NBC could be this year.
“We are going to come back ready to work tomorrow,” Butler said. “I think the biggest thing is it just says a lot about our league. You have to be ready to go at all times, every single night.”
Makenna Moritz led the Comets with 15 points, seven rebounds and four steals, Schlageter had a double-double 12 points, 11 caroms and three steals, Addisyn Moritz had six points and eight boards.
Junior forward Emerson Bickel scored four points and sophomore guard Adrianna Williams had two points, six rebounds and three steals.
Genoa junior guard Kayla Boyd scored two points, sophomore forward Keira Combs had one point, four rebounds and three steals and freshman guard Ava Houghtaling had two steals.
Black, who has no seniors on his roster, says his Comets are going to have to get used to varsity game speed in a hurry if they want to compete in the NBC.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve got to be hungry to improve,” Black said.