Grounded: Rams provide Eastern Eagles with early exit from LIT

The Manual girls’ basketball team earned a much needed 46-44 victory over the Eastern Eagles on Wednesday afternoon at Bellarmine University in the second round of the Louisville Invitational Tournament (LIT).

This was the second meeting this season between the Crimsons and the Eagles, with Eastern winning the first matchup by a score of 70-66. The Crimsons came into the game hungry to avenge their previous loss.

“We knew they were a good team but [we knew] we could beat them,” Tyonne Howard (12, #12) said.

Both offenses started off slowly as the teams traded buckets for the entirety of the first quarter. Manual’s only three pointer of the night came from Jaela Johnson (12, #3) early in the first quarter, but the spark didn’t ignite an offensive fire.

At the end of the first quarter the score was tied 11-11.

The narrative changed in the second quarter as both teams found ways to score the basketball. Manual pounded the ball inside with Nila Blackford (11, #41) and Aniah Griffin (12, #21) to get layups and to get to the free throw line. Eastern used its speed advantage to run in transition and get quick buckets.

Manual identified what was working and kept going straight at the Eastern defense.

“We attacked them well and played good defense,” Howard said.

Eastern made a layup just before the buzzer to take a 25-23 lead into halftime.

Manual continued to earn trips to the free throw line to get its points in the third quarter. The Crimsons seemed to be pulling away but a string of turnovers at the end of the quarter allowed Eastern to jump out to a 34-32 lead at the conclusion of the third period.

The Crimson offense finally came alive in the fourth quarter, just in time to take control of the game. Shots from Johnson and Howard propelled the Crimsons to their biggest lead of the night, 42-34.

Eastern called a timeout to draw up a game plan that nearly won the game. A pair of impressive three pointers and a pair of free throws brought the Eagle to within two points of tying the game.

A Manual turnover with five second left allowed Eastern to get off a shot to try to force overtime, but it didn’t fall and the Crimsons hung on for a hard-fought 46-44 victory.

The Crimsons will have to avoid turnovers and sloppy play in the upcoming weeks if they want to make a deep run into the state playoffs.

“We need to improve our ball handling and communication on the court,” Howard said.

Manual will face George Rogers Clark High School (Clark County) in the third round of the LIT at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 26 at Bellarmine University.

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