No. 10 Washington holds off Eddyville
EDDYVILLE — When Washington and Eddyville-Blakesburg met last season, the Rockets rallied from a 22-point halftime deficit to within four points, but the Demons held on to win by seven.
No. 10 Washington again held off a late charge from the Rockets in this year’s season opener, winning 49-37 at Eddyville-Blakesburg on Monday night.
“A year ago they came to our place and we had them down  at the half, and by the end of the third quarter they had it down to [nine], and we won by [seven],” Washington head coach Phil Long said. “So we warned the kids about that at halftime. This is a club that will fight you for 32 minutes.”
Washington led by 10 points at halftime, and built its lead to as many as 15 points in the second half. The Demons still led by 14 with five minutes remaining when the Rockets made their run.
Sophomore Sadie Baugher and senior Shunyl Busch knocked down shots along the baseline, and then junior Tasha Alexander made a pair of free throws and a layup as Eddyville-Blakesburg pulled to within six with 2:35 remaining in the game.
“We got on track there,” Eddyville-Blakesburg head coach Tony Fenton said. “We finally got some turnovers and converted there. We got it down to [six], and I think we missed a couple of shots to get it even lower than that.”
But Eddyville-Blakesburg’s run ended when its top two scorers fouled out. Alexander, who led the Rockets with a game-high 15 points and nine steals, fouled out seconds after scoring the layup to pull her team within six. And senior MaKenzie Jensen, who added eight points and six rebounds, fouled out right after that.
“Those two are our leaders out on the floor right now,” Fenton said. “They’re our leading scorers, and if they’re sitting on the bench, we’re not going to score a whole lot of points.”
In fact, Eddyville-Blakesburg didn’t score another point the rest of the way. Junior Dema Giardino and senior Beth Dillon both made one of two free throws to push Washington’s lead to eight. Then Dillon scored a layup, stole the inbound pass, and made two free throws after being fouled to give Washington a comfortable 49-37 lead with less than a minute remaining.
“It was just kind of relieving to get those,” Dillon said.
“A senior stepped up and made some good decisions,” Long said.
Dillon had a double-double of 13 points — a career high — and 10 rebounds to lead the Demons. Junior Stephanie Fishback added a career-high 10 points, and she also had five steals. Giardino had a career-high nine points, and junior Grace Redlinger had nine points and six steals. Senior Sammy Ellingson had a team-high seven thefts.
Washington led by just one point early in the second quarter, but the Rockets went over five minutes without scoring, and the Demons went on an 11-0 run during that stretch to take control of the game. Washington led 25-15 at the break.
Washington didn’t have an outstanding shooting night from the field (17-for-49) or from the free-throw line (12-for-23), but the Demons came up with 25 steals and out-rebounded the Rockets 37-18.
“I thought our team aggressiveness defensively was really the difference,” Long said. “We touched a lot of passes, and we had a lot of steals. It was a good, physical game for us to win.”