COVINGTON, Ga. — Many crucial moments defined the latest edition of the Eastside and Newton girls basketball rivalry. Though each team had its moments, the Lady Eagles earned the right to celebrate a 48-40 victory on Dec. 2.
Head coach Gladys King elected to make a defensive shift to help create separation.
“We started our press and started forcing some turnovers so we can get some easy baskets under the goal,” King said. “We did a good job of making sure they know where they are on defense.”
But it took a late rally by the Lady Eagles to accomplish this feat.
After trailing the entire game, Zoey Jackson’s assist to Jazmine Flournoy gave Newton a 38-37 advantage with 3:22 remaining in the game. It wasn’t long before Eastside’s aggressive style allowed it to regain its lead.
At the 2:55 mark, Kaliel Kracht was fouled earning her two free throw shots. She was unsuccessful on both attempts, but Kracht collected her own miss and connected on a baseline jumper.
Less than a minute later, the Lady Rams reclaimed the lead when Alissa Sandifer found Flournoy down low for another layup.
Flournoy’s fourth point turned out to be the last for Newton.
For the rest of the game, Eastside went on a 9-0 run.
Donee Morain converted a layup followed by her assist to Kracht for another layup. Jasmine Featherson made the most of her two free throws to give Eastside a 45-40 lead with 46.6 seconds left.
Morain closed the deal when she drove down the lane and was fouled while her shot went in. The freshman added another point on the ensuing free throw to help seal the deal.
Bailey pointed to his team’s inconsistent play as their Achilles heel at this time, but was satisfied with his players’ determination.
“We're still very much in a learning phase offensively and defensively and we're not able to put together complete games of execution on either end,” Bailey said. “This is a good group of young, hard working student athletes. Once we start creating the correct habits and learning the systems in place we'll be a lot more competitive.”
Eastside walked off the court Friday night with a win, but Jackson for Newton almost had other plans.
With her team trailing by 10 points to start the fourth, the freshman guard had an impressive stretch of crucial plays. Of Jackson’s game-high 17 points, nine of them came in the final eight minutes which included some forced turnovers and finding teammates open for more points.
Jackson’s breakout stretch in the fourth quarter came as no surprise to her head coach. In fact, Bailey highlighted how Jackson — though her nickname from her teammates is ZJ — had 23 points in Newton’s Nov. 22 matchup against Mount Pisgah Christian.
“This is back-to-back special performances for Zoey,” Bailey said. “ZJ is going to be a great player in the years to come. Her passion for the game of basketball and confidence as a scorer are as high as any player I’ve ever coached.”
Jackson’s play seemed destined to carry the Lady Rams to their first victory of the 2022 season. It was so evident that King elected to call a timeout less than a minute and a half into the fourth quarter.
King shared what her team did differently to minimize Jackson’s impact to close the game out.
“No. 11 got them back in the game, so we went a box-and-1 on her and didn’t let her touch the ball,” King said. “We’re not just going to let 11 beat us. She was trying, but that wasn’t going to be something I wanted to happen.”
Morain led the way for the Lady Eagles with a 14-point, 11-rebound double-double. Jailyn Williams finished with 11 points, too, followed by Kracht’s nine and Mehkyla White’s six points.
The Lady Eagles’ win ends a two-game skid after starting the year 3-0. They will look to carry any and all momentum from Friday’s result into their Region 8-AAAAA opener on Dec. 9 at Loganville.
On the other hand, Newton remains on the search for its first win of the season. Jackson led all scorers Friday with 17 points while Chasity Tavares had six and four others recorded four points apiece. The Lady Rams will have a home matchup next on Dec. 10 against Butler High School.