It’s been an eventful week for Eastside boys basketball. Isaiah Miller scored his 1000th career point in the first quarter against Locust Grove on Thursday and on Friday the Eagles get a well-deserved win over rival Newton, 71-64.
“It’’s a big win,” Brent Wren, Eastside coach, said. “This whole week we’ve been touting it as we had to go through the gauntlet. Iron sharpens iron so we had to go through this in order to get where we need to. I think this helps us out toward region. I think it gives us a good push going in.”
“I’m happy for them. We’ve got seniors, we had to go through a rough week this week. We’ve been trying to bond together as a team, I think it’s beginning to pay off really, really big for them,” Wren said. “Isaiah made a huge accomplishment this week. He didn’t even know he hit that milestone. So it’s one of those things that they’re enjoying playing with each other and we’re enjoying watching them play. It’s just good.”
This time it wasn’t a 30-point beatdown by Newton. This time the Eagles were in control for most of the game on both sides of the ball, but especially on defense.
“It’s those man-to-man principles. I knew it would take a long period of time, it’s still not where we want it to be, but they’re improving on it,” Wren added on his team’s defense. “They’re beginning to recognize what it is we want from ‘em and how we want it done and it’s coming together. They’re beginning to unite.”
The Rams started quickly, forcing two turnovers that led to two Newton baskets and a 5-0 lead for the Rams. Eastside was able to get to the foul line early in the first but went just 1-6 trailing Newton 11-4 because of those struggles.
Then came Isaiah Miller, willing Eastside back in the game and scoring six points all on putbacks to bring Eastside within one. The individual battles were fun for the crowd and the players, especially JD Notae vs. Miller, a battle which Miller got the best of in the first.
The Eagles won the first after Keondre Perry hit Raytavious Jackson in the final seconds taking a 12-11 lead into the second period.
Newton appeared flustered, looking like the team in the final minutes of last week's Rockdale comeback loss, but this time it was Eastside's double teams in the half-court forcing Newton turnovers.
Following a Newton timeout, the Rams went on a 7-1 run to get back in it. The Eagles got back in control and Miller punctuated the Eagles first half with a two-handed flush after breaking down two Ram defenders. The dunk excited the crowd so much it forced a referee's timeout as the crowd erupted before the referee instructed the announcer to warn the students that another outrageous outburst would result in a technical foul on Eastside.
The Eagles led 33-26 at the half holding Notae to just six first-half points. Josh Wilson did some heavy-lifting guarding Notae, but he was effective especially in the first half, adding some light trash talking to Notae to let him know he wasn’t backing down.
With their shooters, Newton is never out of any game and they proved it in the third quarter. Jaquan Simms drained a heat check three-pointer to tie the game at 40.
Notae would give Newton a 49-47 lead as the Rams outscored the Eagles 23-14 in the third quarter and looked to be ready to breakaway with the lead.
Notae was dealing with cramps the entire game, so much so that he was seen drinking a jar of pickle juice on the bench with Newton winning 53-50.
Then came the Eagles. Perry drained a three to give EHS a 55-53 lead. Freshman Ashton Hagans struggled from the field and missed a couple open jumpers late in the game that could’ve changed the course for Newton, but he wasn’t the only Ram that was off.
Newton got within one after a pair of free throws from Josh Tukes, whose rebounding kept Newton in the game, but Cammon got the lead back to three after attacking the basket and getting the layup to make it 62-59.
Simms missed a triple and Cammon got back and scored off a dish from Miller to go up 64-59 with under one minute to go. With his shot on ice, Hagans would get to the basket and connect on a layup plus the foul. He missed the free throw but Newton got the rebound and Newton Coach Rick Rasmussen called a timeout down 64-61, 31.8 seconds left.
Hagans gets fouled but misses both. Miller to the line to ice it and he missed the one-and-one. The unlikely hero, Tukes would get fouled on the rebound and he drained both with the Rams trailing 64-63 23.4 seconds left.
After Miller went 1-2 at the charity stripe the Rams turned it over and it sealed the deal on an Eagles win.
Tukes led all scorers with 21 points. Simms posted 17 and Notae finished with 14. Miller finished the game with 19 points, Perry and Cammon added 15 apiece and Jackson added 12.
“We know going in people are gonna try to limit Isaiah and we know that those other two [Joshua Cammon and Keondre Perry] have got to step up big. We had a big game from [Raytavious Jackson], we had a big game Josh Wilson, he came in and played a heck of a defensive game.
Newton now enters the region tournament having lost two rivalry games in the past week and likely a little less confidence added to the looming strong possibility the Rams will see Rockdale again at Newton after their bye. For Eastside this win is the launching pad for what could be a solid region tournament run.