The Eastern Eagles played right with the visiting Portsmouth West Senators in every aspect of the game but just quite couldn’t buy a bucket in Thursday night’s 55-32 loss.

“We played hard tonight. We just missed shots. At halftime, I came in and there was nothing to yell at them about, not that I want to ever yell at them. But there was nothing there to tell them besides, ‘Keep shooting. Keep your heads up. Continue taking those shots. They’ll eventually start falling.’ They did not in the second half,” said Eastern coach Lakiem Lockery.

“We got them in the second half. We stayed with them (Portsmouth West). We’d come down and get a shot that was in-and-out. I always teach my kids you can’t control the ball going into the basket, but you can control your effort, intensity, and energy. We did that tonight and I can live with this one; they played hard.”

Lockery had hoped to send his seniors out with a victory, but it wasn’t to be.

“I hate for my seniors to go out like this on senior night,” said Lockery. “I wanted my seniors to go out with a win on senior night at home, but it’s just part of that process. We have our eyes set on something else. We have next Tuesday against Clay.”

Both teams started out strong, going back and forth to start the first quarter, as West held an 8-7 lead at the 4:25 mark. The Senators then used a 10-0 run to take a 17-7 lead after the first eight minutes of play.

The Eagles then cut the lead to 21-12 a little before the halfway mark of the second quarter, but West built the lead 27-15 at the break.

Trailing by as many as 15 in early in the third quarter, Eastern turned up the pressure and outscored the Senators 9-7 over the last 4:49 to get within four possessions, trailing 41-29 after the third. The Eagles just quite couldn’t buy a bucket in the fourth quarter as they fell 55-32.

Even in the loss, Lockery has seen progress and areas of growth in his young team as they prepare for the upcoming Divison IV OHSAA State Tournament.

“We’re trying to build momentum and any momentum we can find moving forward. The last couple games we’ve put ourselves in position where we had growth in certain areas of our game as a team, and that’s the biggest thing. If we get some growth in some areas, that’s all I can ask for. We’re young. We have a lot of young kids, so with that and with time, growth comes with that. So it’s going to be fine. We’re at a place right now where we’re trying to find ourselves and identity. We have four days to prepare and get ready, and I’m sure we’re going to come out ready, and I’m excited about it.”

Statistically, the Eagles were 11-of-50 from the field hitting one three. They were also 9-of-18 from the foul line and brought down 32 rebounds. Eastern won the turnover battle, as they forced 12 Senator turnovers, while only committing eight of their own.

Chase Carter led the Eagles with 11 points and nine rebounds, while Hunter Cochenour scored 10 points and also brought down nine rebounds. Dillion Mattox scored four points and Gabe McBee scored three. Neil Leist and Jake Tribby rounded out the scoring with two points each.

The Eagles will now prepare to take on 17th-seeded Portsmouth Clay in a Division IV sectional semifinal with the hopes of getting to a sectional final for the chance to go to Ohio University’s Convocation Center.

“That’s always a goal. I’ve been to the sectional final in previous years. That’s always been one of my things. I want to get my kids, and my seniors to get to the Convo,” said Lockery. “I want them to experience that opportunity. That’s always the thing for me. It’s not about me. It’s about sending them off the right way. So as deep as we can go in this tournament, we’re going to do everything we can to keep fighting.”

The Eagles with tip-off at 6:15 p.m. against the Panthers at Wellston High School Tuesday evening.

Portsmouth West 55, Eastern 32

PWHS - 17 10 14 14 - 55

EHS - 7 8 14 3 - 32

PORTSMOUTH WEST (55) — Nick Davis 4 0 1-1 9, Luke Howard 4 0 0-0 8 Dillyn Coe 3 0 1-1 7, Brennan Bauer 4 3 1-2 18, Steve Sadler 0 0 0-0 0, Luke Bradford 3 0 1-2 7, Ryan Sissel 1 0 0-0 2, Eli Adkins 0 0 0-0 0, Rodney Moore 2 0 0-0 4, TOTALS 21 3 4-6 55.

EASTERN (32) — Drake Ferguson 0 0 0-2 0, Dillion Mattox 1 0 2-3 4, Gabe McBee 1 0 1-4 3, Hunter Cochenour 3 0 3-4 9, Neil Leist 1 0 1-2 3, Brennen Slusher 0 0 0-0 0, Chase Carter 3 1 2-2 11, Ethan Perry 0 0 0-0 0, Bailey Strong 0 0 0-0 0, Denny 0 0 0-1 0, Jake Tribby 1 0 0-0 2, TOTALS 10 1 9-18 32.

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