Rockets, Eagles battle it out in NBC preview

Yaneek Smith

Press Sports Editor

In the last eight years, Eastwood and Oak Harbor girls basketball teams have gone 4-4 against one another with the Eagles winning the last four meetings. During that time, the teams have undergone changes at the coaching positions with Brittany Butler taking over for Nick Schmeltz in Pemberville and Adam Steinbrick succeeding Tom Kontak in Oak Harbor.
(Eastwood won last year’s meeting, 70-52.)
This Tuesday, the teams will battle it out in a non-conference matchup, one that finds the Eagles 7-9 and 5-5 in the Northern Buckeye Conference and the Rockets 4-10 and 0-7 in the Sandusky Bay Conference Bay Division.
Next season, with Oak Harbor moving to the NBC, the teams will be in the same conference and play twice each season. (The teams played together in the old Suburban Lakes League from 1972-86.)
Steinbrick talked about his team, which is talented but very young. Seven of the 11 players on the team are freshmen and sophomores.
“We got off to a quick start, and then we got into the heart of our schedule, and there have been ups and downs,” he said. “But the girls have continued to work hard, the attitudes have been good, the efforts are outstanding. We’ve got to become more consistent and play for four quarters. Moments of greatness are there, but it’s the inconsistency, which is what you’d expect with a young team.”
The Rockets have faced their share of good teams over the season.
“When we’re done playing, it’s going to be that we’ve played five to six league champions,” said Steinbrick. “It’s a tough schedule, but that’s how you learn; that’s how you improve. We’ve been going through a rough stretch. We’ve been battling, but we’ve been coming a little short. We’re building equity into the program, and it will pay off in the long run.”
One of the bright spots has been 5-6 freshman wing Carter Haas, who is third in the Bay Division in scoring average at 13.6 points. She also leads the division with 33 3-pointers.
“She’s done a great job,” Steinbrick said. “Last year, she was in eighth grade, and she goes right into varsity this year; we throw her right into the fire, and she’s handled it quite well. She’s had a very good year for a freshman.”
Steinbrick also praised 5-11 sophomore wing/post Ellie Mollison, who has made strides, and 5-5 sophomore wing/guard Camdyn Fauver.
“Elise continues to develop her game. I’m really happy with her improvement — she improved on JV, and she started some games at varsity and has given us some solid minutes,” said Steinbrick. “Camden Fauver is leading the league in steals, and she’s always going up against the other team’s best player. We put a lot of pressure on her defensively, and most of the time she does a good job of shutting them down or holding them to their season low. She’s been pretty impressive defensively. We’re winning some small battles that you can build upon.”
Steinbrick also notes that Nora Schmidt, a 5-9 junior post, is second in the Bay Division in rebounding, averaging 8.7 per game.
“One thing, I know they’re not going to give up, they’re going to continue to improve. We’ve got to take care of the ball a little bit better; we’ve been exposed with our inexperience,” said Steinbrick. “But every day in practice, their attitudes have been outstanding. We’ve got to keep on going back to work and keep on improving.”
It’s been a roller-coaster ride for the Eagles this season. The team lost two games to begin the season, won four in a row, lost five in a row, won three in a row and has lost two in a row, the most recent defeat a 48-37 loss to Genoa.
In the loss to the Comets, Kayla Buehler scored 20 points and Kyrie Henline chipped in with 12.
Prior to the 41-34 loss to Bowling Green, Eastwood had won three in a row. In the 35-25 win over Otsego, Buehler scored a game-high 19 points and Amelia Ward scored nine. In the 60-48 win over Maumee, the Eagles rallied to win in the fourth quarter behind 19 points from Ward, 14 from Buehler and 12 from Paige Hoodlebrink. And in the 65-45 win over Lake, Buehler scored 27 points to lead all scorers while Henline scored 11 and Ward chipped in with 10.
Butler said her team, as a whole, is trying to be patient.
“We have a lot of new girls that are getting significant minutes. If we look at where we started at the beginning of the season, there are areas where we’ve made tremendous strides, and there are areas where we’re continuing to grow. It’s just being patient,” she said. “I feel that we’ve had a great, positive mindset despite some of the circumstances.
“I think our girls have done a tremendous job. We’ve had quite a few injuries, and the girls have had a good mindset (with respect) to some roles that they probably weren’t anticipating on filling. We’re trying to create experiences for the girls to want to continue to want to be a part of the family — I can’t say enough good things about them,” she said.
Butler credited a number of her players for their efforts.
“Kayla Buehler has been our spark. She can score from the perimeter, she’s looking to drive, I just want her to continue to be aggressive. I know she’s more than capable. She’s a good offensive presence. Amelia Ward is maybe not always a top scorer, but she gets on the boards, and defensively, she’s always giving us energy – she does a great job getting deflections that lead to points. Saylor King is a great floor general for us, she hasn’t played point guard (before the season), and I think she’s getting more confident and comfortable. She does a good job. Grace Kingery won’t see a lot as far as points go, but she does the dirty work for us. She leads us in charges that she’s taken, we preach that that’s being tough,” Butler said.
“Paige Hoodlebrink is averaging about 5.5 rebounds per game. I feel like she’s starting to look more comfortable. She’s such an athletic kid, she took a couple of years off, and she hasn’t missed a beat. It’s exciting to watch the progression,” she said. “Kyrie Henline has got a great outside shot. Defensively, I think she’s starting to become more confident. Jordan Jensen has been hurt – she got hurt last night (against Genoa); we’re hoping to have her back soon.
“One thing I love about our team is they’re so selfless, there’s no selfishness,” Butler said. “I love that we share the ball and it’s not about ‘me,’ it’s about the team; and we celebrate that, because that can be super rare to have nowadays.”


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