HANOVERTON - The East Liverpool girls basketball team had the ability to make the game interesting. What it didn't have was time.
With a dominant first half including strong defense in the paint and a pair of three-pointers, United survived a fourth-quarter scare with a 44-37 victory over East Liverpool on Monday.
"This is a great thing for a young team to know how to win a close game because we may have a lot more of them this year," United coach Sam Mathias said. "We know how to finish a ball game now."
The Eagles (2-0) got the ball rolling with field goals from Lauren Beech and Jenna Plummer. Then senior Mackenzie Gatchel lifted the team with a pair of three-pointers, which set the tone with a 25-11 lead at the half, a tone pleasing to Mathias.
"We dictated what we wanted to do in the first half," Mathias said. "We had a little flat spot in the second quarter, but we were able to dig ourselves out of that to finish the half."
The Potters (1-1) struggled throughout the first half but found a little bit of scoring from seniors Chelsea Possage and Kiara Cowart in the first quarter. Junior Nikayla Edgell contributed with a three-pointer each in the second and third quarters, eventually leading the Potters scoring with 12 points.
Potters coach Allan Dingey is confident that the defense will improve as the season progresses.
"Our defense is still a work in progress," Dingey said. "We switched the defenses a few times. Finally we started getting some turnovers and deflections. We just need to be more active on defense."
The Potters experienced a power surge in the fourth quarter as Cowart, Edgell and Rae Ana Holmes went on a 10-0 run, and the 13-point deficit was cut down to just four.
Fouls, however, hurt the Potters as the Eagles continued to score from the free-throw line, where all nine fourth-quarter points came for the Eagles.
Gatchel, who led with 15 points, noted that the team lost a little steam as the Potters came back.
"They started playing well, and we didn't have the energy that we had in the first three quarters," Gatchel said. "Them playing well and not us was good, and made the lead go down."
Along with Gatchel, Beech shot for eight points and Plummer scored seven.
Dingey looked back and knew they needed to be more dominant.
"If we would've played like that the first three quarters, we would've had the game," Dingey said. "They almost scored double on us."
Cowart, who ended up scoreless in the second and third quarters, eventually finished with nine points, and Possage shot for eight.
In reserve action, the Eagles easily defeated the Potters 33-13.
Shanna Miller and Megan Amos each scored 10 points for the Eagles, while Lindsay Baker netted 10 for the Potters.
The Potters head to Brooke on Wednesday. The Eagles host Mineral Ridge in ITCL action on Thursday.
The United High crowd was treated to an 5th grade girls basketball exhibtion.
East Liverpool played without junior Elise Smith, who missed Monday's game due to illness.
EAST LIVERPOOL: 5-6-11-15-37
EAST LIVERPOOL SCORING: Chelsea Possage 2-1-8, Kiara Cowart 4-1-9, Caitlyn Davis 1-0-2, Nikayla Edgell 2-1-12, Linsey Rose 1-0-2, Rae Ana Holmes 2-0-4. TEAM TOTALS: 14, 4-11: 37
UNITED SCORING: Lauren Beech 3-2-8, Jenna Plummer 2-3-7, Mackenzie Gatchel 1-4-15, Kenzie Firth 1-1-3, Kassie Chestnut 2-1-5, Syndey Moats 1-0-2, Morgan Smith 1-0-2, Shanna Miller 0-2-2. TEAM TOTALS: 14, 13-23: 44
Three-point goals: East Liverpool 3 (Edgell 2, Possage), United 3 (Gatchel 3)