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Eastside Eagles defeat Heritage with late game heroics from Josiah Johnson
Ashton Washington (0) battles against a Heritage defender in Eastside's third place game on Friday. - photo by Garrett Pitts

JEFFERSON, Ga. — Late game heroics from sophomore Josiah Johnson were enough for the Eastside Eagles to win the third place match over Heritage in the Region 8-AAAAA tournament at Jefferson High School.

The Eagles edged out the Patriots 52-51. 

Down the stretch, Johnson tied the score up at 48 by knocking down two shots from the free throw line. Both teams proceeded to trade baskets in the final minute with. Heritage's Jared White converted a single free throw to put the Patriots up 51-50 with 10 seconds remaining. 

On their final possession with the ball, the Eagles moved the ball around numerous times.

In the end, Trebor Edwards dished the ball inside to Johnson, who put up the floater over a Heritage defender for the definitive score.

Even though Johnson's score left three seconds on the clock, Heritage's final attempt bounced off the rim and Eastside left with the No. 3 seed in hand. 

Following the win over the Patriots, Eagles head coach Dorrian Randolph shared his team’s plan in the final moments.

Ultimately, Randolph brought tactics from the gridiron to the court for Eastside’s winning shot.

“We wanted to force the ball backcourt. The hard part is, you’re down two starters,” Randolph said. “One fouled out and the other was hurt, so you are playing reserve in a big moment. The guy who was guarding the ball is a 10th grader. He is a football player so I had to talk to him in football terms, ‘Jump and guard the slant. Try to force the ball back.’”

Eastside's final score held off the Patriots from completing a fourth quarter comeback, too. 

The Eagles possessed a 10-point advantage halfway through the final frame when Heritage began climbing back. 

White hit a pair of three pointers, with the second one tying the game at 46-46 apiece at one point. 

Ultimately, though, Johnson's floater was enough to help his team edge out the Patriots. 

The first quarter of the game was a tight eight minutes, but Heritage held the edge halfway through the second frame with a 20-13 advantage.

Two, threes from Marion Eubanks, followed by a layup from Larry Rivers put Eastside ahead 21-20.

From then on, the Eagles appeared to have control.

A block in the final seconds of the half from Johnson sent Eastside into intermission with a 29-22 lead.

The third quarter was the best for Randolph’s Eagles, highlighted by a trio of three pointers from Eubanks.

Earlier in the week, Eastside defeated Loganville 64-60, which punched its ticket to the playoffs. On Wednesday, the Eagles lost to Winder-Barrow 53-40 to set up their contest with Heritage Friday.

Now, with the region tournament concluded, the Eagles will prepare for their second consecutive trip to the Class AAAAA playoffs. 

Randolph discussed with his team how they plan to get ready for the start of the playoffs.

“‘Back to work. Because where we are going, it does not matter what team is,’” Randolph said. “That is probably the second hardest region inside 5A, besides the Eagles Landing region. It’s, ‘Let’s celebrate this tonight. We are out of school next week, but we have class. We have to get back in the lab, the film sessions, find out who we play tomorrow and study.’"