HANOVERTON - United has had its fair share of adversity to overcome this season, but so far it hasn't been anything that has bothered the Eagles.
The Inter-Tri County League Tier 1 leaders took another step to a fourth straight league title by dumping Crestview 47-40 on Thursday.
The Eagles (12-3 overall) are in control of the league with a 9-0 mark. South Range trails them by two games, while the Rebels fell to three back (12-4 overall, 7-3 in the league).
United was playing its fifth straight game without senior forward Ruth Prosko. Prosko, who has had knee troubles throughout her career, tore an ACL at the beginning of the calendar year and will have reconstructive surgery on Monday. She will miss the rest of the season. The Eagles also played the first nine games of the season without sophomore point guard MacKenzie Gatchel who also had an injury.
"It has been different without Ruth," junior guard Emily Zehentbauer said. "I know he have Gatchel back, but we have to play really hard to make up for (Prosko's absence. We have had to really work on our rebounding because she did a lot of it."
United was not sharp on Thursday, but neither was Crestview. Both teams combined for 51 turnovers (United had 28, Crestview 23). But that was dictated by the physical style of play each team employed.
"It was an ugly game, but we expected Crestview to come in here and give us their best shot," United coach Sam Mathias said. "They didn't want to go three down in the league, so we knew we going to see pressure, trapping and everything they did tonight. We were prepared for it, but we get a little lazy sometimes handling pressure. It showed at times."
The most critical moment in the game came in the first quarter when the Eagles went on a 10-0 run to open up a 14-3 lead. Zehentbauer had eight of her 12 points in that run which gave the Eagles a cushion they would generally keep in tact the rest of the game.
"It was awesome because last game I was shooting so bad," Zehentbauer said. "It was like I was in a shooting depression."
The Rebels struggled all night getting anything consistent going on the offensive end. Standout junior Ashley Harrison led the Rebels with 14 points and five steals, but most of her output came in the fourth quarter.
"We dug ourselves a hole and had to battle back the whole night," Crestview coach Rick Gates said. "We played extremely hard, but we just didn't play well. On the other hand, United played great defense."
Taylor Smith, the only senior in the Eagle starting lineup, picked up the slack in the post with 12 points and 13 rebounds.
"We come together well as a team," Smith said. "When MacKenzie was out we had to work around that. When she came back, Ruth went out. So we had to work around that."
Gatchel produced a solid game as well with nine points, 10 rebounds and four assists.
"They are the best team in the league right now," Gates said. "Some other teams have played well at times, but to United's credit they have been consistently good."
Gates said it's an extreme long shot that the Eagles will be caught.
Morgan Newbauer and Geri Sickle had seven rebounds each for the Rebels.
The Eagles will be back in action on Monday at South Range. A win there would go a long way to securing the league title, but the Eagles aren't boasting about anything yet.
"I see us going all the way if we stick together, but we'll see," Smith said.
Crestview is at Springfield on Monday.
United won the jayvee game 43-27. McKenzie Firth had 12 points for the Eagles. Allison Parks added nine. Alexya Brooks had 11 points for the Rebels.
CRESTVIEW: 8 9-8 15-40
UNITED: 16 12 11 8-47
CRESTVIEW SCORING: Ashley Harrison 5-4-14, Morgan Newbauer 3-0-6, Alexis DeMaria 0-1-1, Geri Sickle 1-1-3, Annie Hardenbrook 2-1-5, Marissa Leon 0-0-0, Alexis Marnejon 2-0-4, Taylor Chamberlain 3-1-7. TEAM TOTALS: 16-58, 8-16: 40.
UNITED SCORING: Preslee Johnson 0-0-0, Emily Zehentbauer 4-1-12, Sam Spitler 1-0-2, Tara Gray 2-0-4, MacKenzie Gatchel 4-1-9, Cassidy Yoder 2-4-8, Taylor Smith 5-2-12, Jenna Plummer 0-0-0. TEAM TOTALS: 18-47, 8-13: 47.
THREE POINTERS: United 3 (Zehentbauer).