East girls basketball loses a thriller in overtime vs. Eastern

Sophie Levine, Eastside Sports Editor

The rivalry between Cherry Hill East and Eastern Regional High School experienced another chapter on December 21, with the East Cougars losing a tough battle against the Eastern Vikings 49-45 in overtime. The Cougars lead the whole game until the last 1:28 to go in the game. Yanelli Villegas (‘20) lead the Cougars in scoring with 15 points.

In the first quarter, East got off to a shaky start. They kept committing turnover after turnover. One minute and thirty seconds into the game, Eastern struck first with Kelli McGroarty (‘20) hitting one of two from the line. However, less than a minute later, Olivia Pincus (‘19) sunk a jump shot for two points. Eastern pressed early in the first quarter, which caused many turnovers for East. Kiara Bell (‘18) then scored a bucket for the Cougars, bringing the score to 4-4, and less than a minute later, Villegas also hit a jumper for two points. The Cougars also played great defense, with Bell swatting the ball away a few times. Villegas and Bell also secured many rebounds. At the end of the first quarter, the Cougars led the Vikings 8-6.

The second quarter was easily the best basketball that the Cougars played all afternoon. They held the Vikings scoreless for eight minutes: the entire length of the quarter. Although the quarter started off with a series of free throws for Eastern, the Vikings did not convert any of them. Finally, Villegas sunk a jumper and a minute later, Bell hit a layup. Eastern began to get frustrated which led to a timeout. Quickly out of the time out, Villegas made a jumper and got the ball back. She was slapped on the wrist while shooting a three, which lead to three free throws, all of which she made. Villegas hit another three, and the Cougars fans in the building erupted. Going into halftime, East lead 18-6, partly because of the Cougars’ great defense.

Coming out of halftime, the Cougars could taste the win. They knew that they only needed to hold onto the lead for another 16 minutes of game time. Not even 30 seconds into the half, the Vikings got two chances at the line and made both attempts. However, Maya Drayton (‘19) drew a quick foul and hit one shot at the line. On a rebound, Bell was knocked down. It was a major scare for the Cougars, but a few minutes later, she re-entered the game. Her replacement, Rebecca Winslow (‘20), made two quick layups and Villegas hit a jumper to make the score 27-10 Cougars heading into the fourth quarter. All was looking well for the Cougars.

Thirty seconds into the fourth quarter, Drayton hit a quick layup. With two minutes into the fourth quarter, Eastern’s McGroarty, who was having a great game, fouled out. Immediately after, Bell hit two layups. However, the Cougars committed costly turnovers, that came back to haunt them. After Drayton sunk a free throw, Eastern hit a three and a quick two. A few seconds later, Eastern sunk another three with three minutes left to go. The Eastern fans and cheerleaders went crazy, which caused East to use a timeout. More turnovers really hurt the Cougars. After the timeout, Bell hit a layup, which ignited the rest of the Cougars. Eastern’s Danielle Jackson (‘18)  hit a layup and Eastern stole the ball back on an inbound, which lead to a layup. With two minutes to go in the game, the score was tied at 39. Then, Drayton drew a foul, but missed both shots. She then fouled an Eastern player. That was Drayton’s fifth foul, which forced her to take a seat on the bench. The Eastern player made both shots at the line, which gave Eastern a 41-39 lead. However, Winslow hit a jumper to tie the game a few seconds later. Maggie Balderstone (‘20) also fouled out soon after. Eastern’s Gabriella Payne (‘19) sunk a three pointer that had the whole gym shaking. East quickly called a timeout to draw up a play. It worked, as Villegas hit a three with 15 seconds left to tie the game. The fans got some free basketball, as the game went into a four minute overtime period.

Two minutes into the overtime period, Erica Brunson (‘19) made one shot from the line to give the Cougars a 45-44 lead. Bell was also fouled two times, but missed all four attempts at the line. A controversial call then lead Payne to the line, where she made both baskets. Eastern then made another layup and the Cougars came up short when the buzzer sounded, losing the game 49-45.

What seemed to be a promising game for the Cougars throughout the first three quarters, lead to a heartbreaking defeat. The Cougars will look to bounce back on December 23 against Clearview.