Although the Eastside boys’ basketball team finished as runners-up to the Region 8-AAAA championship, it struggled with free throws all season.
That came back to hurt the Eagles Wednesday as they fell to Alexander 72-59 Wednesday.
Eastside, which finished with a school best 16-10 record, missed 16 free throws, and couldn’t hold on to the ball, turning it over in uncharacteristic fashion.
“You don’t make it far in the playoffs not making shots when nobody is guarding you,” Eastside coach Greg Freeman said. “Basketball is a game of numbers, and they made free throws and we didn’t. In the back of my mind, that was my biggest fear that it would catch up with us in the end.”
Also hurting the Eagles was the fact that leading scorer Quindarrius Russell sat out most of the third quarter in foul trouble.
Fellow senior Chavis Williams and junior Anthony Henderson stepped up to lead the Eagles, but in the end, it was the missed foul opportunities.
“With all of that, if we make our free throws it’s a different game,” Freeman said.
Freeman came to the program after Eastside finished 8-17 in 2010-11, helping lead it to a 15-14 mark and the state playoffs in his first season a year ago. This was the first time Eastside hosted a playoff game, something Freeman said he noticed early on in the contest.
“There was a big adrenaline rush for them at the beginning of the game,” Freeman said. “Playing in front of their own fans made a difference.”
Russell and Williams will graduate at the end of this school year, but Eastside will have much of the 2012-13 team returning next season.
“There’s a lot to be learned for these guys,” Freeman said. “People have to understand they were in unfamiliar waters.
“They weren’t used to being the team to beat and having people look up to them. I really think with the guys we have coming back, and hopefully, some of these young guys we have coming over from middle school, that we’re able to have a deeper rotation.”
The Eastside girls’ basketball team also lost its first-round playoff matchup, falling to Fayette County 70-34 Tuesday.