Eagles survive late Commodores rally
Brandon Miniard, Sports Writer, [email protected]
When a team starts the season on a long losing streak, the game plan in subsequent contests devolves into a simple formula: Do whatever you can to win.
That was the case with the Lanesville Eagles, whose 0-7 start to the 2021-22 season is the worst in the Mikel Miller era and the worst since the 1995-96 campaign, when Jerry Reinhardt’s Eagles lost their first 11 contests.
With their current record bringing down their mood leading up to Christmas, the Eagles returned to their nest on Thursday when they hosted Perry Central. Dealing with a roster filled with players recovering from injury and confidence issues, the Eagles found themselves celebrating like they encountered a Christmas miracle as they pulled away from the Commodores with a 54-47 victory.
“You’re sitting at 0-7, so really, your game plan is that you got to try to do everything you can to win,” Miller said. “We’ve been seeing some gradual improvements but nothing that resulted in a win. (Perry Central’s) solid, really good athletic team, stronger, faster and more athletic than we are. The word we’ve been talking about the last few weeks is just details, paying attention to details, little details.”
While the Eagles’ offense had struggled to begin many of their games this season, that was not the case for junior Jack Crosby. Three of the Eagles’ first four baskets came off the hot hand of Crosby as he sniped a trio of triples in the period. Between Crosby’s second and third long balls came a pair of free throws from junior Jackson Schneider. The Commodores responded with seven points from Cole Hess, followed by a three-point play from Corbin Haughee and a bucket from Andy Bishop.
With the Commodores ahead 12-11, the Eagles made a bid to take the lead when Eagles’ junior C.J. Baumgart was fouled on a shot attempt with one tick remaining. Despite missing his second freebie, his first fell through to tie the game at 12 to end the opening frame.
After ending the first quarter with a point, Baumgart kicked off the second period with three more as he knocked down the Eagles’ fourth triple of the first half. Another Baumgart bucket, alongside senior Carter Smith, a long ball from junior Dawson Teeter, junior Maddex Miller knocking down two free throws from the charity stripe and another six points from Schneider powered the Eagles during a long surge.
While the Eagles’ offense exploded in the period, the defense pinned the Commodores to just six points, four of which came from Hess alongside a bucket from Travis Kellems. The Eagles’ quarter-long surge upped to 21-6 as the Eagles got the ball to Crosby, who knocked down his fourth and final triple at the buzzer, sending the Eagles’ faithful into an uproar as the home squad flew into the locker room with a 33-18 advantage.
“We’ve had games where we got plenty of shots but we just haven’t made them, and they’ve been open just like that tonight,” Miller said. “Jack hitting those shots early on helped the team and helped him confidence-wise.”
The third quarter saw the momentum begin to resemble a see-saw as the Commodores scored seven of the first 11 points before the Eagles responded with a 7-2 run of their own. The Commodores managed nine points in the period, led by four points from Lucas Mitchell, a Kellems triple and a bucket from Camiren Etienne.
After sitting for most of the first half following two quick fouls in the opening quarter, Eagles’ junior Kameron Walter led the way with five points followed by four from Miller. After a Commodores’ bucket in the waning seconds, Miller performed his best Tom Brady impression as he chucked a full-court pass to a wide-open Schneider, who waited under the basket before laying the ball in at the buzzer to extend the Eagles’ lead to 44-27.
The Commodores were unwilling to lay down their swords as they began the final period with a 10-2 run, fueled by triples from Etienne and Bishop. Hess notched another eight points alongside buckets from Bishop and Kellems and a free throw apiece from Mitchell and Etienne to conclude the Commodores’ scoring in the contest.
Walter managed the Eagles’ only two points during the surge as the Commodores tied the contest at 46 with time running out. Despite struggling to find the basket, Baumgart was able to strike with a close-range jumper, which proved the final strike the Eagles needed. Miller, Walter and Schneider all knocked down free throws from intentional fouls to secure their first win of the season 54-47.
“We were just moving along, trying to find a rhythm and enjoy the final game of (2021),” Maddex Miller said. “When we finally started hitting shots, we just kept on hitting because we had a lot of energy.”
Scoring came from a number of Eagles as Crosby and Schneider led the way with 12 points apiece, while Maddex Miller had nine and Baumgart and Walter each chipped in eight. Hess was the only Commodore to reach double figures as he posted a game-high 19 points.
The victory brought a sense of relief to the Eagles’ locker room, which was filled with screaming and yelling of the positive variety, a stark contrast to the disappointment that filled the locker room in their first seven bouts.
The Eagles concluded 2021 by traveling to Edinburgh to partake in holiday tournament action, starting with facing the host and Class 1A No. 4 Lancers yesterday (Tuesday), followed by taking on the winner or loser of North White vs. Hagerstown. Placement games are set to take place tonight.
“We’ll have our hands full in that tournament,” coach Miller said. “We play the host team, Edinburgh, which, last time I looked, they were ranked third or fourth and were undefeated. I went to watch them last weekend; they’re a really good team, similar to (Perry Central) as far as length and athleticism.”
Perry Central 12 6 9 20 – 47
Lanesville 12 21 11 10 – 54
Perry Central (3-3) – Hess 19, Bishop 7, Kellems 7, Etienne 6, Mitchell 5, Haughee 3.
Lanesville (1-7) – Crosby 12, Schneider 12, Miller 9, Baumgart 8, Walter 8, Teeter 3, Smith 2.
3-point goals – Perry Central 3 (Bishop 1, Etienne 1, Kellems 1); Lanesville 6 (Crosby 4, Baumgart 1, Teeter 1).