The Ohio University Eastern men's and women's teams finished their home slate in grand fashion Saturday Afternoon, sending seniors Charity Street, of Beallsville, and Colin Hudson, of Barnesville, out with wins. The Panther women took their first Ohio Regional Conference regular season title since 2003, clinching the ORC East with a 105-32 whitewashing of visiting Akron-Wayne. The men already had a first round bye locked up, but took care of business 83-69.
In the women's game, the Panthers first honored lone Senior Charity Street. Street joined the Panthers this season, and had an immediate impact on the Green and White. She moved into the starting lineup five games after joining the team, and even with all of her accomplishments at Beallsville, where she is the all-time leading scorer with 1,627 points, and West Liberty, where she was a regular all conference performer, still was able to record a career first, getting her initial triple-double as a collegiate player against Ohio University Zanesville. OUE wasn't done honoring players either. During the first half, Eastern also took time to honor Barnesville's Nicole Anderson. Anderson graduated last year as the all-time leading scorer and second leading rebounder in Lady Panthers history, and had her jersey retired to the trophy case at the Health and Education Center.
The game itself served as a tune-up for Eastern, as the 1-17 Warriors, also of the ORC East, were outmatched from early on. The Panthers jumped to an early 8-0 lead behind Street and fellow Beallsville Alumna Savanah Burke before the Warriors could score. Akron-Wayne was able to close to a 10-7 count three minutes into the first half, but that would be as close as it got, as the hosts harassed the visitors into 14 first half miscues, while nailing six treys heading into halftime up comfortably 51-26.
While the first half saw Eastern play well, the second half was even better. OUE forced 20 more turnovers by the Maroon and Gold in the second 20 minutes and held them to an amazing six points. Eastern also nailed 11 more three pointers in the second frame, gaining an amazing 51 points off of bonus balls pushing the final verdict to the 105-32 count. Eastern saw all 10 players contribute as five reached double figures. Street, Burke, and Barnesville's Allie Doan each had 19 points, with Doan nailing five-three's. John Marshall's Chanice Hill also hit five from beyond the arc for 15 points, and Martins Ferry's Amber Skvarka had 13. Burke also had 12 boards, while Street added a team high eight assists and seven steals. The Panthers finish the regular season 15-4 overall and 9-3 in the ORC.
"Charity was my toughest recruit of all-time." commented OUE coach E.J. Schodzinski of his senior. "I worked harder to get Charity in the Green and White than any other player and it is paying big dividends. She is a special player. She makes the other players better because she is always pushing to make herself and everyone else better. I wish she had three more years...Savanah Burke on the other hand has three more years, and I am very excited for her potential. This was her fourth game in a row with a double-double, and she will only get better as she matures physically. She will only get better inside as she grows stronger. She has the motor of a sports car, and can accelerate and hit her top speed on her second step, which is rare."
The Panthers boss continued, "I am also very pleased with Emily Carpenter. She is playing her best basketball of the season and has really made a commitment over the last two weeks to be the best she can, and it has been showing in her rebounding statistics." As for the tournament, Schodzinski closed saying "We are playing OU Chillicothe on Sunday. We got the five seed and they are the four and we expect a battle. We do expect to win though, and would be very disappointed not to get to the State Tournament Final Four. Our goal is nothing short of winning the state title."
The Panther men started their game against the Warriors firing, but sloppy play kept it close, and actually put the Panthers down, as they saw an early five point lead evaporate to a 22 all deadlock 12 minutes in, then found themselves down 40-28 three minutes later, victimized by nine first half miscues. Adding to the issue, Wayne's Edwin Hunter couldn't miss from the floor, scoring 15 of the Warriors 19 points in a six minute span. OUE wasn't done though. The Panthers would dig deep and get physical, playing tight inside to come back. Eleven of OUE's 15 points on the comeback trail came from the charity stripe as they forced the issue, getting hacked on various attempts. Beallsville's Zach Tolzda was the only Panther to hit a field goal in the last eight minutes of the half, knocking two down from the paint. OUE had closed the gap to a 44-43 deficit at the break.
The Mean Green defense stepped up in the second 20 minutes, limiting Hunter to five points, and forcing 10 turnovers as they would take back the lead four minutes in, 49-48 on a Dan Milleson jumper. Five minutes later, the hosts went up by eight, as Harrison Central grad Dave Barcroft deftly caught a long bomb from Caldwell grad Jason Shaw for an easy layup. Shaw, Hudson, Barnesville's Josh Wells, and West Muskingum's Tim Theobald all lit the scoring column over the final 10 minutes, as Eastern would coast to the 83-69 verdict. Hudson finished his home career as a Panther in a familiar place-as the leading scorer-finishing with 26 points and seven boards. Shaw added 21.
OUE boss Donnie Madzia, the former head coach of Harrison Central High School, was quick to praise his senior following the victory. "I coached Colin in the OVAC All-Star game out here and so I knew he had a deep shooting range. It was nice to see him grow up into a nice young man. I also saw him mature physically into a strong young man from a scrawny high school senior. He's going to finish his career at or past 1800 points, and he truly does love the game."
On the game, Madzia commented, "We came out and got ahead, then fell behind 28-40, and clawed back to only being down 43-44 at the half. I thought we may pack it in at halftime, but we showed resilience. I have talked about playing D all year, and I told the guys to look at this as a "pre-tournament" game because we could see this team again. To hold a team to 25 second half points says a lot about team defense." Concerning the ORC state tourney, Madzia stated "We drew a four seed and got a bye, so if we play well we have a great opportunity. Ohio University Lancaster is a good match up as they are much like us. They are strong on the inside and the perimeter. They will give Akron-Wayne a game. I think the bye will help because the winner of that one will be playing two days in a row, while we will have a bye, so our fresh legs may help us pick the winner off."
The Panthers men are 11-7 overall with an 8-5 conference mark. As stated, they will play the winner of OU-Lancaster and Akron-Wayne on February 15th at 3 pm at Ohio University Zanesville. The Panther women will play at 3 pm on the 15th as well at Ohio State University Newark, facing Ohio University Chillicothe.