GREENTOWN — Eastern’s boys basketball team looked well on its way to a blowout over Oak Hill early Saturday night, storming to a 10-0 lead out of the gate.
The Golden Eagles had other plans, however, weathering the early knockout attempt and settling into a solid groove with a stifling full-court press and equally stingy zone defense that caused the Comets fits the rest of the night and ultimately led to a 49-36 loss for the Comets.
“They play that matchup zone which makes it hard to score,” Eastern coach Mike Springer said when asked about the 1-2 punch of Oak Hill’s press combined with their zone that kept the Comets at bay as the game wore on.
“We’ve handled presses this year and we just froze. We didn’t make good decisions. As the game progressed we made better decisions but there was that stretch where they got back in the game and got things going because we didn’t attack. We just played around the outside and that’s something we’ve got to work on to get better.”
Matt Arcari opened the game with a 3-pointer, Evan Monize followed with an offensive putback, and Arcari then added a deuce and another triple to cap the big opening run for Eastern (7-5), with the final seven points of that spurt coming courtesy of three Oak Hill turnovers during a stretch that also saw the Golden Eagles burn a pair of timeouts over the first two minutes.
Oak Hill (6-5) then found the scoreboard and began whittling away at the deficit.
“Unfortunately we have experience with that,” Oak Hill coach Kevin Renbarger said. “[Friday] Peru went on a 12-0 run and we ended up tying it at 26. We’ve just got to figure out what it is we are doing that is causing that to happen.
“It was a slow start obviously and we talked about trying to get connected on one end of the floor to help the confidence on the other end of the floor,” Renbarger added. “And I felt defensively we were pretty locked in. You take away the first 10 points and we allowed 26 the rest of the way.”
The Eagles got within 12-10 at the first stop on the way to forging a 19-all tie at the half. Oak Hill then took control in the third period, using an 8-0 run on the way to outscoring Eastern 13-6 in the frame for a 32-25 lead heading into the fourth.
Despite the Golden Eagles’ run, the Comets were still within striking distance when Evan Monize got Eastern within four, 29-25, with 1:56 to play in the third. But that was the Comets’ last points for a 5:30 stretch during which Oak Hill used a 10-0 run to go up 39-25 with 5:03 remaining and essentially secure the win.
“We knew Oak Hill would come back,” Springer said. “It was a competitive game. We got behind and came back. And I didn’t have a good offensive scheme for us. They made adjustments and then we didn’t make the adjustment after that, so give them a lot of credit.
“We had a good week but it was a tough, long week.”
It was the third game of the week for Eastern, which topped Maconaquah on Tuesday and breezed past Clinton Central on Friday.
Arcari scored 11 points to lead Eastern and Evan Monize added eight.
“I was really pleased with our inside kids and felt like they battled their butts off against a much bigger crew,” Springer said. “Evan did a good job and Austin Roberts and Karson West battled really well inside. Their big kids, [Ryan] Pederson had four [points] and [Tristen] Hayes had 11, but they earned them all.”
Tahj Johnson led Oak Hill with 15 points.