Season opener turns into eye-opener for EBF

Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont sophomore Aliya Wagamon (22) drives to the basket while being defended by Lynnville-Sully senior Natalie Nikkel (52) on Friday night during a season-opening 73-39 win for the EBF girls basketball team in Sully.

SULLY — Not even Tony Fenton saw this one coming.

In his 20th season opener as Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont's head girls basketball coach, Fenton was just hoping his team would have a chance late in Friday's contest at Lynnville-Sully. In the end, EBF didn't need to worry about a late shot or a late steal to secure a win as the Rockets outscored the Hawks 41-12 in the second half, rolling to an impressive 72-39 win against a team that had won the previous 10 meetings between the program including 54-34 wins in each of the last two season-opening contests.

"We just wanted to keep pushing the ball," Fenton said. "We thought we were in pretty good shape. When we rebound the ball, we try to push it. We've got a lot of girls that can handle it, so if our bigs get the ball, they're going to turn and go.

"That's a good team. Lynnville-Sully is going to win a lot of games this year. Defensively, we made some good adjustments. The players did what they had to do on the court to shut them down."

The Rockets (1-0) made it tough on the Hawks to attack the basket throughout the contest, getting hands in passing lanes forcing 30 turnovers by Lynnville-Sully (0-1) including 23 steals by seven different EBF players. The Hawks were able to counter in the first half by drilling shots from the perimeter, forcing six lead changes and three ties in the opening half.

Greenlee Smock, who led Lynnville-Sully with 12 points, looked to shoot the Hawks in front early in the second half hitting her first two shots from 3-point territory each time cutting EBF's lead down to a single point.

Each time, however, freshman Molly Shafer had the answer. The first-team all-state volleyball standout of the Rockets stepped back to bury consecutive 3-pointers early in the third quarter, keeping EBF in front.

"I kind of surprised myself right there," Shafer said. "I didn't think I'd have the confidence to even step up and shoot from 3-point range. It was good to match them and get our confidence going."

The brief back-and-forth 3-point barrage would prove to be as competitive as the game would get in the second half. Shafer's second 3-point make ignited a 12-point run for EBF that included transition baskets created by Whitney Klyn and Aliya Wagamon with Klyn finding Ava Eastlick for a lay-up before scoring a wide-open basket on a full-court feed from Wagamon.

EBF's four-pronged attack of Klyn, Shafer, Wagamon and Eastlick ultimately produced 66 points, 26 rebounds, 18 assists, 14 steals and three blocks. Elise Alberts stopped EBF's 12-0 third-quarter run by banking in a 3-pointer before the Rockets responded with shots in close from Eastlick, Wagamon and Klyn giving EBF a 52-36 lead heading into the fourth.

"We've been working a lot on our defense. There's a lot of younger girls on the team that haven't played at the speed we're used to playing at," Klyn said. "We played a really good game and had a lot of fun doing it. I think this shows everyone what we're capable of. I think this boasted everyone's confidence about how this season is going to go."

Klyn led EBF with 24 points, kicking off a lopsided final quarter by scoring the first five of the 20 points scored by the Rockets in the final eight minutes. It would be five of the 23 total points scored by both teams in the fourth as the Hawks managed just one field goal in the final period, allowing the Rockets to secure the most one-sided margin of victory in the past 11 meetings between the teams.

"I looked up at the scoreboard at one point. I was amazed. We were really killing it," Shafer said after scoring 15 points to go along with nine rebounds and a team-leading six assists in her high school basketball debut. "Lynnville-Sully is a really aggressive team. Hopefully, when we face good teams throughout the course of the season, we'll step up and play like we did tonight."

Wagamon scored 13 points while grabbing nine rebounds, four steals and a team-best two blocks. Eastlick, also a freshman, showed no fear scoring 14 points to go along with five assists, four steals and three boards in her first high school basketball game.

"We talked about coming out and setting the tone for the season. We've got freshmen that don't play like freshmen," Fenton said. "The girls didn't get fazed with their pressure. Once we started breaking that, we started getting lay-ups.

"These girls are confident in each other. They play well together."

EBF returns to the floor for two more games next week prior to Thanksgiving. After making a trip to Washington on Monday, the Rockets host Pleasantville hoping to open what could be a special season 3-0.

"We go one game at a time and see how things go," Fenton said. "We just want to go out, play our game and hopefully come out with a win."

— Scott Jackson can be reached at sjackson@ottumwacourier.com. Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.

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