Lady Eagles Crowned Regional Champions

By
Kaleb Carter

Dateline
Updated Sun, Mar 9, 2014 12:03 am
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Photo Credit: 
Kaleb Carter
Jenna Burdette has the Eastern Lady Eagles heading to Columbus after her 37 point performance against Newark Catholic
It was a memorable Saturday night at Pickerington North High School for the best women’s player in Southeast Ohio to have a career-best game. Jenna Burdette went off for 37 points in a 62-52 victory over the Newark Catholic Green Wave and as a result the Eastern Eagles won another regional championship.
 
“As a coach I just want to win, I don’t care who scores 37 points” said Coach John Burdette. “As a dad, I’m glad she’s capable of doing it.”
 
Time and time again, Jenna Burdette used her superior speed and ball skills to dazzle the throngs of Eastern supporters who flocked to Pickerington. The two teams threw everything in their respective books at one another defensively, from 1-3-1 and 2-3 zones to junk and gimmick defenses to full-speed full court pressing.
 
It was a slugfest of a first quarter in which the Eagles missed several open looks as the Green Wave keyed in on Parker and Burdette. It was not until right under two minutes remained in the period that Burdette scored her first basket. Eastern trailed 9-8 after eight minutes of play, but those who made the trek were about to see Burdette put on a display.Burdette scored the first points of the quarter on a layup. She hit the third Eastern field goal of the quarter. And the fourth, and the fifth, etc. Newark Catholic kept with it and answered each bucket. Jill Blacksten and Ashleigh Parkinson had a response to each Burdette bucket.
 
Trailing 23-21 late in the period after a Blacksten take to the hoop, the Eagles hit an 8-0 run to end the half. Burdette hit a layup and immediately harassed Green Wave guards in the backcourt. Back-to-back turnovers and converted hoops had the score at 27-23 and effectively swinging momentum in Eastern’s favor. Holding for the last possession, Katie Keller finished through contact to give Eastern a 29-23 lead into the half. The noise after the Keller basket could have been mistaken for a Sunday afternoon at CenturyLink Field.
 
Burdette finished with 17 in the second period alone. Not to be outdone, Newark Catholic responded in the third, and battled to and fro, with Blacksten getting the upper hand for several minutes. The junior forward finished strong at the rim to give her team a 34-33 lead with 3:46 left in the third.
 
But who else would respond but Burdette? A smooth take to the hoop, 35-34 Eastern. Two free throws, 37-34. NC gets a bucket back. And another. They lead 38-37. With ice in her veins, Parker hits a 3-pointer to send the folks from Reedsville back into a frenzy. 40-38. A Kelly Clapper 3-pointer for NC. 41-40. Then Burdette finishes off the scoring with the quarter with an and-one. 43-41 with eight minutes to decide who goes to Columbus.
 
The turning moment came with five minutes left in regulation as Burdette drew a foul on Parkinson, which gave her five fouls and put her on the bench for the evening. Burdette finished the basket, hit the free throw and went up five, 50-45. They never looked back. 
 
For good measure, three of the Eagles next four baskets went to Burdette and the other basket was a nifty assist from Burdette to freshman Laura Pullins.Eastern fans had reason to cheer its team again, as they earned their way back to Columbus. The fans helped propel the team, as the Eagles rode the collective roar of the traveling Eagle fans. 
 
Maybe lost by some in the jaw-dropping performance was the all out effort put forth by the whole Eagles squad. Maddie Rigsby hit the hardwood a few times per usual, but it was Erin Swatzel who cleaned up on the glass and fought for loose balls all night. 
 
The Eagles have shot for the Schott all season, and their fans will sport the “Unfinished Business 2014” shirts as an intimidating moniker.
 
“This wasn’t our goal, but I’m happy” said Coach John Burdette. “You gotta be tickled to death to make it back-to-back. That’s awesome. “
 
The win on this stage marked the second consecutive year Eastern has won a regional championship.
 
“We were a lot more focused this year” said Jenna Burdette. “Way more than last year. We weren’t as nervous because we’ve been here before.”
 
Eastern gets a shot at fellow No 1. seed Fort Loramie on Thursday at 8 p.m. in the Schottenstein Center in Columbus.

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