In what proved to be yet another exciting night of prep basketball, the Eastside varsity boys and girls basketball teams split a pair against Heritage on Tuesday at home in region action.
For the boys, the Eagles (7-4 overall, 2-2 Region 8-AAAA, Sub-region B) suited up for yet another hard fought battle on the court against opposing region rival Heritage. And they didn't disappoint, either, ending by way of a game-winning basket by senior Artis Clanton, 54-53.
Meanwhile, the Lady Eagles (6-9, 0-3) came up just short, falling 52-38 despite a hard fought contest.
"It felt really great," stated Clanton when asked about the game-winning shot. "I knew once I grabbed the rebound it was going to go in."
Eastside, who has yet to win a game by double figures this season, expected nothing less than a good ole' fashioned dog fight to the end.
Led by their faithful student section, the Eagles came out the gates fired up with plenty of intensity. Looking to run and push the ball up court every chance they got, they set the tempo for a fast paced game.
Although Eastside took high-percentage shots and widely out hustled the Patriots (10-4, 3-1) throughout the first half, the scoreboard proved otherwise.
Superb three-point shooting came off the bench when Eastside's Neil Latimore entered the game, hitting three big treys to give the Eagles a halftime lead, 22-21.
The second half began much like the first, only this time it seemed as though the Eagles were shooting a golf ball through a hula-hoop. With shots now falling quite freely, Eastside was able to build a comfortable 37-27 lead going into the final eight minutes of play.
"I told the guys to stay focused and keep playing," said Eastside boys coach Michael Gerald. "(Heritage) was going to try and put a run together, but I told them if we rebound and defend we will be able to hold them off."
With the fourth quarter under way, the Patriots were able to erase the Eagles' comfortable lead by putting together a 20-3 run, giving them a six-point advantage with three minutes left in the game.
Gerald, who is accustomed to watching his Eagles play hard until the buzzer sounds, called a timeout to regain their composure and put together a strategy that would give them a chance to win it in the end.
The strategy meant putting the ball in Cameron Robinson's hands. Robinson was able to push the ball up court on back-to-back trips and hit two 3's to tie the game while the rest of the Eagles zoned in on playing tight defense. With 12 seconds left, the Eagles made a costly error by fouling Heritage's Key Wade, sending him to the line for two shots. Wade, who split his free throws, left one last chance for Eastside to win the game.
With a small window of opportunity left open for the Eagles, they drove hard up the court in an attempt to close the game out. A wild shot taken by Robinson missed, but was gathered by Clanton, who was then able to beat the buzzer to seal the deal.
Clanton ended with a team-high 14 points, while Latimore added 13.
In the girls' game, Eastside was initially able to hang with the Lady Patriots (10-4, 3-1), only trailing 27-24 at halftime.
With both teams rested and ready for play, Heritage came out with a full-court press in the second half that seemed too much for the Lady Eagles.
Turning the ball over with careless passing seemed to be Eastside's downfall as the Lady Patriots were able to capitalize with a 52-38 victory.
"This is the best game that we as a team have played against a good opponent," noted Eastside girls coach Jason Grooms.
The Lady Eagles, who were 4-of-13 from the free-throw line, missed four out on nine easy opportunities that may have changed the ball game.
Eastside's Ashley Burtts scored a team-high 15 points.
"We have to convert our free throws," admitted Grooms. "But we also start three freshmen, so we are very young and have a bright future."