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Eagles bounce back, defeat Panthers

By CHUCK LANDIS - clandis@chronicle-tribune.com

MIER — With no time to lick their wounds, the Oak Hill girls' basketball team had to play conference and county rival Eastbrook on Thursday just one day after their loss to Northwestern.

The Golden Eagles were able to resort back to their brand of basketball — plenty of defensive pressure and relentless rebounding — and poured it on the visiting Panthers 58-27 in Central Indiana Conference play. The win clinches at least a share of the league championship with only a Jan. 20 game at Alexandria remaining.

Just 24 hours earlier, the Eagles absorbed a 53-30 beating against Northwestern in a matchup of the Class 2A and 3A top-ranked teams. Oak Hill (16-2, 6-0) opened the game against Eastbrook (5-11, 0-5) with eight unanswered points and never trailed their county rivals.

"The biggest thing from a mental standpoint: you just got beat and we were ready to get back out on floor and get that corrected," Oak Hill coach Todd Law said. "Obviously, we had no practice time to work on anything, but I think the kids were ready to get back out there and make something positive happen."

Jenessa Hasty led a balanced Eagles attack with 16 points and said the team wanted to put Northwestern behind them while at the same time apply the lessons from the game to the remainder of the season.

"It was extremely important," Hasty said. "We had to definitely play together this game because we were super motivated to get back into it and play better as a team to get the win.

"I'm very happy we played against (Northwestern)," she added. "We're going to see a lot of games like that in the tournament, and to play against good competition like that with hard presses and good defenses is really good for us and helps us get better."

Law brought out the full-court pressure and harassed the Panthers into 22 turnovers, which the Eagles converted into 27 points — nearly half their total scoring output. And Oak Hill's hefty 31-15 rebounding advantage included 15 on the offensive glass and resulted in 10 second-chance points.

"We haven't pressed nearly as much this year but we did tonight," Law said. "I thought it had a impact on the first part of the game at least and created some situations where we could get some stops and get our transition offense going."

Oak Hill extended a 13-4 first quarter lead to 26-11 at halftime and 44-20 after three quarters. In the opening half, the Panthers had 12 turnovers and 12 shot attempts, and only three went in the basket (25 percent). For the game, the Eagles took 21 more shots and hit at a 49 percent clip (23-of-47).

Opponents are increasingly packing in their defenses to slow down 6-foot-1 Oak Hill center Taylor Westgate, and Eastbrook was no exception. After scoring four points against Northwestern, Westgate bounced back with 15 points and 11 rebounds while combating the Panthers' 2-3 zone defense.

"In the second half we were getting the ball inside to Taylor and (Eastbrook was) bringing the double team and she was able to find the weakside girl cutting to the basket three or four times," Law said of Westgate, who was 7-of-11 from the floor — everyone a putback or close-range shot.

"Obviously, their game plan was to take Westgate away," Law added. "But one of the areas we've improved at this year is our base half-court offense, and with the zones they were playing we were able to move the ball around. A year ago we weren't a real good shooting team, but this year we've had some kids spend time in the offseason and we're shooting the '3' better and that pulls (defenses) back out when we hit those shots."

Eastbrook coach Jeff Liddick admitted it would have been tough to match up with Oak Hill in any situation, let alone with the Eagles stinging from a high-profile loss a day earlier. The Panthers never were able to find an offensive rhythm and hit just 7-of-26 from the floor for 27 percent.

"It wouldn't have mattered if they lost or not, we knew we would be up against it," Liddick said, "Coach Law's team is very talented. It's hard for us to play a team that long, that athletic and that well-coached and skill level that high — that's a hard team to beat."

Sarah Foulk led Eastbrook with nine points, Baylee Ditsler followed with eight points and Kylie Standfest contributed seven points and six rebounds. The Panthers dropped their fourth straight and have lost nine of 10 games.

Adrianna Trexler contributed nine points for the Eagles while Kaela Robey had eight points and six rebounds. Kristin Dubois scored five points and dished out six assists and made two steals. Hasty hit a pair of 3-point baskets and also had four steals.

Both teams have Tuesday home games with Eastbrook playing South Adams and Oak Hill meeting North Miami.