Two starters, leading scorer Isaiah Miller and point guard Ronney McKee fouled out in the third quarter, in a back-and-forth contest with Henry County, but the Eagles prevailed despite the odds, winning their final region game 80-76.
The Eagles opened up with a basket from star junior Isaiah Miller, who got in the lane and hit a tricky layup with the defense converging on him. After Eastside was able to take an 8-4 lead, Dominique Joseph responded with a putback and Javon Greene got in the lane to tie the game.
The two teams continued to trade baskets, but it was Eastside that was out in front at the end of the first leading Henry County 18-16. Early in the second with Raytavious Jackson sitting, the Warhawks won the offensive boards and scored four points off putbacks to take a 22-18 lead.
The Eagles tied the game with a putback from Jackson and the teams traded triples to knot it up at 27.
Miller got into foul trouble early in the second, but Coach Brent Wren left him in until the 3:07 mark with Eastside down 30-29 when Miller picked up his fourth foul and had to sit.
The lead extended to 33-29 for Henry County after a dunk by Damion Rosser, but Joshua Cammon answered with a three to make it 33-32, Warhawks. Another score for the Warhawks gave them a 35-32 lead heading into the half.
The Eagles tied the game quickly in the third when Cammon got free off of a screen and hit a three-pointer. It was all Cammon in the first minute-and-a-half scoring all eight Eagle points to give Eastside a 40-37 lead. With free throws from Perry and a basket from Jackson, the Eagles lead bloomed to 44-37.
McKee would foul out in a chippy game that saw the referees draw the ire of both sides. Jackson made a steal with under four minutes left and went coast-to-coast for the one-handed jam putting Eastside up 48-39.
After a three by the Warhawks, Eastside answered with Miller making a layup to go up 50-42, but Henry County got loose on a fast break and Miller stopped just under the basket to let the opposing guard go by him and get the easy layup but the guard veered toward Miller, tripped and fell seemingly on his own, and the referees called a highly controversial foul on Miller, his fifth, taking him out of the rest of the game.
Despite not having their leading scorer, Eastside was able to hold the lead. Perry went coast-to-coast with an underhanded layup as the Eagles led 54-44 with under two minutes to play in the third. Henry County would trail the Eagles 56-46 entering the fourth.
Coming out of the gate, the Warhawks were able to cut the lead to four (57-53) thanks to a three-pointer from Greene. Cammon was able to successfully get to the line on the following possession, but hit just 1-2.
After a forced turnover, Cammon hit a triple to get the lead back to eight. Eastside made a careless turnover and the Warhawks made them pay as Rosser scored in the easy layup.
Perry went to work and scored after getting inside the paint using his lanky frame smoothly against two defenders and making the layup to keep Eastside afloat. A turnover by Justin Benjamin allowed Henry County to get within five, but Benjamin made up for us mistake and scored on the other end to keep the lead at seven with under three minutes to play.
Every Warhawk score was countered by a score from the Eagles. An offensive rebound by Greene turned into a missed opportunity for an and-one allowing the Eagles to stay up by two possessions with 1:19 left. Cammon knocked down two free throws and the Eagles’ defense forced a turnover to pretty much seal the deal with 1:00 remaining and Cammon at the line again.
Perry, Cammon and Jackson were huge in the second half, as they combined for 45 second half points. Bench players like senior Josh Wilson, who came in and played point guard with McKee and and Miller sitting, and Benjamin played well late in the game to help Eastside get the win.
“It was one of those things, the last couple of weeks we’ve been struggling with the team identity,” Wren said. “We have the individuals that can do certain things, it’s the team identity and it was one of the things we focused on in the last couple of weeks being able to say at the end of the day, ‘Can I trust the person behind me to do their job like they need to?’ This was the perfect storm. It kind of dovetailed into what it is we are trying to do and those guys came off the bench and they played big for us.”