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Eastside, Social Circle basketball have close non-region contests
EHS/SC Hoops
(Left) Jarilix Rivera-Villarini (3) connected on three consecutive three-pointers in Saturday’s win at Social Circle. (Right) Quin Jackson (3) drives past an Eastside defender in Social Circle’s 51-42 win on Saturday. - photo by Phillip B. Hubbard

SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. — When fans walked into Social Circle High Schools’ gymnasium to watch Eastside versus Social Circle basketball on Saturday, they saw very little room to maneuver. The place was packed. 

Just like there was little room to move in the stands, there was little to no room for comfort in the action on the hardwood. Both games between each schools’ girls and boys basketball games came down to the wire, which provided some intense moments. 

By night’s end, the two teams split the non-region matchups. The Lady Eagles triumphed 56-49 followed by the Redskins’ 51-42 win. 

Lady Eagles get back in win column

Each team seemed to trade baskets throughout the first half. At the end of the opening quarter, Social Circle led 13-9, but that was flipped when Eastside led at the half 24-20. 

Coming out of the intermission, the Lady Eagles found an offensive spark, particularly from Jarilix Rivera-Villarini. 

The freshman guard got Eastside’s bench and fans on their feet by nailing three consecutive three-pointers in the first 1:32 of the third quarter. Villarini’s stroke sparked an 11-2 run that opened the Lady Eagles’ advantage 35-22. 

For the most part, Eastside’s 13-point cushion remained intact the rest of the way. Courtesy of the free throw line and a few timely shots allowed for the Lady Redskins to make things interesting down the stretch. 

It was a case of too little, too late as the Lady Eagles’ withheld the Lady Redskins from a comeback. 

Villarini led her team with 14 points with Jailyn Williams contributing 10 points with six rebounds. Donee Morain and Aysia Spivey each recorded eight points while Mehkyla White had six. 

Morain and Kaliel Kracht tied for the team-high in rebounds with seven apiece. 

Saturday’s win gets Eastside (8-10 overall, 2-6 in Region 8-AAAAA) back in the win column and ending a four-game losing streak. 

Head coach Gladys King wants her players to learn one lesson reentering region play this week. 

“I always tell my girls, ‘All is not lost,’” King said. “I know we have lost some pretty close region games and we’ll get back in the gym to work on what we need to. But the momentum from this game is, ‘All is not lost.’ I’m not worried about the rankings and things like that. All I’m worried about is coming out and playing and getting better.” 

Social Circle’s Achilles heel for most of the night was missed free throw attempts as well as turnovers. As a team, the Lady Redskins missed 15 free throws and had 21 turnovers. 

Head coach Dave LaBarrie stressed how his team’s biggest issue isn’t anything related to the X’s and O’s. 

“They don’t realize they can win,” LaBarrie said. “That’s our problem right there when they think they can’t win. And they can win, you can see that.” 

Social Circle drops to 3-10 overall with its first Region 5A-Division I game on Tuesday against Jasper County. 

Redskins finish non-region schedule with victory  

From the onset, the Redskins seemed to take control of this game by jumping out a 28-19 lead by halftime. 

Social Circle’s lead swelled to 42-30 with 1:16 remaining in the third. But the Eagles’ defensive pressure and being opportunistic quickly trimmed the deficit. 

In the final 1:16 of the third to the first few seconds of the fourth, Eastside went on an 8-0 run. It took advantage of a few Social Circle turnovers that it turned to easy fast break buckets. 

Derrick Tuggle scored two baskets in the frame along with Jayvon Johnson to help cut into the deficit. 

Meanwhile, the Redskins did enough in the fourth quarter to keep their lead at eight points. But they did so in a difficult fashion. 

DaShon Hyman scored four of his six points in the fourth quarter to help the Redskins keep their lead. And, the entire Social Circle defense stiffened in the final eight minutes only allowing six points compared to the 17 Eastside scored in the third. 

The leaders for the Redskins, though, were twin brothers Quin and Lamarius Jackson. 

Quin led all scorers with 19 points alongside Lamarius’ 15 points. AJ Vinson contributed seven points in the paint, too. 

With the win, the Redskins improve to 9-8 overall. 

Head coach Taylor Jackson believes his team’s non-region schedule — that featured close games like Saturday — has prepared his team for the start of region play this week. 

“We just play tough game after tough game all year,” Jackson said. “I feel like we’re really starting to turn a corner with toughness with being able to finish down the stretch. It was not a glamorous effort, but I feel like last month this would’ve been a game we’d lose. So you can see these guys are really shifting in their toughness, mentality and fortitude down the stretch.” 

Eastside’s leading scorer was Johnson with 12 points with Saabir Berrian next with nine and Kassen Saunders with eight points. Tuggle and Jason Carter each had four points.

Saturday’s result was just the Eagles’ fourth loss of the year and they currently stand at 16-4. It’s also the first time they had back-to-back losses this season after losing at Heritage the day before. 

And, while still atop the Region 8-AAAAA standings, head coach Dorrian Randolph wants to see his players “refocus.”

“When you start out so hot like that and you haven’t really experienced it before, it’s exciting,” Randolph said. “And you ride that wave and, eventually, that wave goes out. Now, we gotta get back to the aggression and the hunger that we had when we were at the bottom trying to get people to know who we are. Now people know us and we’ve got to prove who we are again.”