Coach Greg Freeman’s eighth-ranked Eastside Eagles boy’s varsity basketball team is looking more and more like a team that will make a lot of noise in the Class AAAA state tournament.
The Eagles’ most recent victim, the Madison County Red Raiders, were simply outmanned and out-hustled by the Eagles Tuesday night, who crushed the Red Raiders 76-30 at Eastside on Senior Night.
With its 14th consecutive win, the Eagles improved to 19-2, 6-0 in Region 8-AAAA. The Red Raiders fell to 8-16, 4-3 in region play.
Eastside Senior Treyvon Francis led all scorers with 25 points, while fellow senior Daniel Oduah added 17. Malik Freeman led the Red Raiders with nine points.
“I thought we did what we do every day in practice, which is (to) deny people," Freeman said. "Dare them to score, dare them to beat our defense, dare them to beat our schemes. We dare them to challenge us because our plan is to make sure you (the other team) don’t score. If you watch our team play, they work harder on defense than they do on offense.”
It was apparent early in the first quarter that Eastside was the superior squad. Senior Anthony Henderson opened the scoring with a 3-pointer. Madison Co. made two baskets to take its only lead of the night 4-3 with 6:02 left in the first quarter, however, the Eagles played excellent defense and went on a 9-0 run to lead 12-4 at the 4:32 mark.
The Red Raiders just couldn’t match Eastside’s tempo and trailed 19-8 after one.
It was more of the same in the second quarter as the Eagles led 26-10 with 3:09 gone in the period. Junior J.J. Saxton had a nice follow of an Eastside miss to score a bucket and draw a foul to give him a 3-point play. Another highlight was Oduah’s monster dunk off a fine outlet pass by Francis. That play was followed by steal and lay-in by Francis to put the Eagles up 37-10 with 1:10 left before halftime.
The Red Raiders did make a 3-point shot to go into the locker room down 37-13.
Madison County coach Tim Drake must’ve said something to get his player’s attention in the locker room because the Red Raiders started the second half with much more purpose. They didn’t exactly play themselves back into the game – they were down 47-21 after three quarters – but they almost matched Eastside point for point in the third, 11-12.
However, Eastside seemed to hit a higher gear as they went on a 9-0 run to start the fourth. Francis scored the Eagles' first seven points of the run with a jumper, a 3-pointer and a lay-up. Two more Eastside baskets put the Eagles up 62-26 with 4:38 left to play.
The highlights of the final period were the Eagles’ tenacious defense, and another huge jam by Oduah, who also finished with four blocked shots. Freeman pulled his starters with 1:51 left in the game and his team up by 34, 72-28.
From there, Eastside cruised to the final 76-30 victory.
“We’re a great defensive team," Freeman said. "We held those guys (Madison Co.) to 30 points in 32 minutes. I look at the defensive side first because it’s my understanding that the best defensive team in the state won the Final Four last year. We get points in transition. Anthony and Treyvon can shoot with the best of them, and we defend like heck.”
Eastside can’t rest on its laurels as they meet a tough Lanier High School team Wednesday at Lanier in Sugar Hill.
Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m.