GREENVILLE — The Greenville girls basketball team are conference champions for the first time since 1990.
The Yellow Jackets were already assured of the first O-K Bronze title — prior to Wednesday’s tipoff — courtesy of a loss by second place Forest Hills Northern on Tuesday to Grand Rapids West Catholic.
Unfortunately, the Yellow Jackets (15-4, 7-2) did play with the same efficiency they have for their first eight league games. Greenville struggled defensively, missed close shots and missed plenty of free throws in a hard fought 45-43 loss at home to Forest Hills Eastern.
“We didn’t deserve to win,” Greenville coach Eric Nichols said. “We did not do the little things and we did not finish. That is the first time where we really struggled to finish with some really good looks.”
Eastern (11-8, 5-4) came out of the gate with a lot of intensity and a clear desire to knock off the Yellow Jackets. Greenville defeated the Hawks 49-29 on Jan. 25.
It was senior night for the Yellow Jackets and they came out to start the game emotional, though, it didn’t translate well on the court.
“The girls were emotional. This is a good senior group and they are a tight group,” Nichols said. “This was their last game at home and they were emotional. That’s expected and that’s OK.”
Eastern led 12-6 after the first quarter and 27-20 at halftime.
Greenville trailed most of the first half, but took the lead 20-19 on a basket by Nikota Howe with 2:53 remaining in the half. Eastern, though closed out the half with an 8-0.
The Yellow Jackets took control in the third quarter outscoring the Hawks 12-6 to pull within 33-32.
“Defensively, we were very good in the third quarter, finally,” Nichols said. “We had a nice little spurt to get back in it and I thought we were OK. But again, we had good looks and didn’t finish. Just one of those nights.”
Leah Somerfield gave Greenville the lead with a driving basket to start the fourth. She was fouled on the play and made the free throw for a 35-33 lead.
The teams traded baskets until Kirsti Reininger drained a three-pointer to give the Hawks a 40-37 lead. Greenville never had the lead again, but were within one point twice.
Reininger led the Hawks with 12 points, while Kaleese Jeffries finished with nine points.
Somerfield scored 13 points for Greenville. Kae Page added 10 points and Taylor Baker eight.
Neither team shot well from the free throw line. Eastern was 5-for-16, while Greenville was 11-for-22.
“The line never lies. It tells the truth,” Nichols said. “We were not very good at the line. We got there, did what we wanted to, but it just comes down to being able to finish whether they are puppies (close shots) or free throws.”
Despite the loss the Yellow Jackets donned conference champion T-shirts following the game and each took turn cutting down the net.
“I told the girls to celebrate it tonight, they earned it,” Nichols said. “It’s been 23 years since our last league title, so we are going to enjoy it and hope to finish strong at West Catholic. Then we will sprint into the district.”
The loss was Greenville’s first at home all season, as they finished with a 7-1 record at North Gym.
Greenville will finish the regular season Friday at West Catholic.
FH Eastern 45, Greenville 43
FH Eastern 12 15 6 12 — 45
Greenville 6 14 12 11 — 43
FH EASTERN (10-9, 5-4) — Goble 2 1-2 6, Rose 4 0-2 8, Harvey 2 0-1 5, Reininger 5 2-6 12, Fatum 2 1-2 5, K. Jeffries 3 2-3 9. Totals: 18 5-16 45. Three-point goals: K. Jeffries 2, Goble, Harvey. Total fouls: 16. Fouled out: None.
GREENVILLE (15-4, 7-2) — Baker 2 4-11 8, O’Brien 0 2-4 2, O’Herron 3 0-2 6, Page 4 0-0 10, Howe 2 0-0 4, Somerfield 4 5-5 13. Totals: 15 11-22 43. Three-point goals: Page 2. Total fouls: 16. Fouled out: None.