Eastwood’s heartbreaking loss to Rossford near the end of the regular season wasn’t exactly the way Eagles’ coach Matt Routson wanted to head into the sectional tournament. Add to that, another heartbreaking loss in Thursday night’s district semifinal.
The Eagles were riding a five-game win streak, but the Bulldogs hit a shot with one second left to hand Eastwood a 50-48 Northern Buckeye Conference loss. The Eagles finished 10-4 in the NBC after routing Fostoria (2-19, 0-14), 77-33, in their final regular season game.
But, the Eagles (18-7) found renewed life in the tournament until losing to defensive-minded Colonel Crawford (19-5), 42-36, in a Division III district semifinal at Ashland University Thursday night.
|Eastwood senior guard Jordan Faykosh looks down court to
senior post Grant Peters (2) as senior post Steve Bradley
(14) trails in the Eagles’ 73-26 win over visiting Otsego.
(Press photo by Lee Welch/FamilyPhotoGroup.com)
To get there, Eastwood defeated over Margaretta (14-10), 61-44, in a sectional final at Oak Harbor. Senior guard Jake Schmeltz scored 21 points, including three goals from behind the arc and was 6-for-6 from the free throw line. Grant Peters had 18 points and Tim Hoodlebrink added 13. It was Eastwood’s first sectional championship in more than three years.
In the semifinal, Schmeltz had two treys and scored 20 points in the Eagle’s 54-47 victory over Collins Western Reserve, a member of the Firelands Conference (11-11). Peters had eight fourth quarter points as the Eagles pulled away in the fourth quarter.
But against Colonel Crawford, Schmeltz scored just five points and only one Eagle, Michael Flipse, reached double figures with 11. The Eagles were up two at halftime, but were outscored 30-22 the second half.
All along, the Eagles were looking forward to the D-III tournament — a step down from last year, leaving an even better opportunity for the team to get more championships.
Routson believed close games during the regular season prepared the Eagles for the tournament.
“The (Rossford) game was important for us to win,” Routson said, “but in the grand scheme it didn’t mean a whole lot. If we would have won, we would have been tied for second (in the NBC). We tried to focus on it being like a tournament game. Rossford (15-7, 12-2) is a really well-coached team playing really well. Unfortunately, we didn’t play very well in the second and third quarter. It’s frustrating for our kids but we talked about, let’s learn from this so when we’re in the tournament, we can overcome this situation.”
The Eagles lost two other games near the final buzzer this season. They lost to Lake, 52-49, in December and lost to Otsego, 63-60, earlier this month. Eastwood also handed sixth-ranked Lake (21-2, 13-1) its only regular season loss this season.
In the sectional, playing at Oak Harbor also helped, Routson said, because Eastwood played in that gym during the regular season. And, he said, dropping down a division definitely gave the Eagles a boost.
“We have some tough matchups. Last year we were in the sectional with Defiance, Bowling Green, Wauseon — schools that are bigger than us and really good basketball programs. Last year’s sectional had four or five teams that represented the champion of their league. This one was difficult, but the schools are similar to us in size and ability.”
Routson said this year’s senior class had been eager to break its tournament losing streak and continue advancing.
“One of our goals was to win a sectional title. We have a good group of kids who have worked hard. We have a great senior class and good underclassmen who have played well for us. It was nice to get a couple more wins under our belt and do something special for our program,” Routson said.
Eastwood’s starting lineup consisted of four seniors and one junior, Hoodlebrink. Schmeltz, who had 22 points in the loss to Rossford, led the team in scoring (19.4 pts.) and steals (2 steals) and averages more than four assists a game.
“Jake’s been extremely unselfish this year and still is able to score for us,” Routson said. “His focus has really been the team’s success. He’s doing a great job being a leader on the court and being positive with everybody. In that regard, he’s done a tremendous job this year.”
Eastwood’s three big men, 6-foot-5 seniors Grant Peters and Steven Bradley and 6-4 backup Zach Jacoby, all shot better than 60 percent from the field. The Eagles were shooting 56 percent as a team before shooting 32 percent in that loss to Rossford.
Peters averaged 12.8 points and a team-high 6.8 rebounds, while Bradley averaged 7.3 points and four rebounds.
“Grant gets better every time he hits the court,” Routson said. “He’s a fantastic kid to coach and he’s been a leader for us as well. Offensively, he’s done a great job. Steven Bradley plays a big role in scoring, but he defends well. He’s so long that he can defend the post and the perimeter. We will put him on the other team’s (best) shooter; defensively, he’s done a fantastic job for us.”
Senior point guard Michael Flipse averaged 4.2 assists per game and had a two-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio.
“He distributes and scores when we need him,” Routson said.
Hoodlebrink averaged just five points a game but did a lot of the little things, according to Routson.
“He’s an extremely athletic kid who fills a stat sheet,” the coach said. “He’s averaging four rebounds and almost two steals a game. He does a little bit of everything on the court. He’s really our go-to defender. We put him on their best offensive guard.”
Jacoby averaged 7.5 points and five rebounds while backing up Peters and Bradley.
“It’s nice to start two 6-5 kids and bring another one off the bench,” Routson said. “Zach rebounds well for us. If the other two get in foul trouble, he picks up right where they left off.”
Eastwood senior guard Jordan Faykosh looks down court to senior post Grant Peters (2) as senior post Steve Bradley (14) trails in the Eagles’ 73-26 win over visiting Otsego. (Press photo by Lee Welch/FamilyPhotoGroup.com)
Eastwood senior post Grant Adams tries to get around an Otsego defender in the Eagles’ 73-26 win over visiting Knights. (Press photo by Lee Welch/FamilyPhotoGroup.com)