COVINGTON, Ga. – The way the Eastside boys basketball team has started its season isn’t ideal. But it also isn’t cause for Eagles’ coach, Brent Wren to start looking for panic buttons to push.
“It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish,” Wren stated after his team’s heartbreaking 86-82 overtime loss to Henry County Tuesday.
This aphorism spoke both to the most recent game played – in which Eastside trailed by double digits the majority of the first half before clawing its way back – and to the Eagles’ season in which, coming into that Henry County game, the Eagles were 0-6, still seeking that elusive first win.
They finally got it Friday night in a 58-47 win over Region 4-AAAA foe Luella.
And just as Eastside dug its way out of a deep hole in the latter part of the Henry County game, and found a way to cobble together enough offense to best Luella, Wren is looking for his bunch to rise above its early-season troubles to get back into Region 4-AAAA contention.
Although Wren’s bunch is filled with juniors and seniors, the third-year coach attributes the Eagles’ winless start to their inability to close out teams despite holding a late lead. Such was the case against Henry County.
“We are a young, inexperienced team,” Wren said. “I think inexperience is what cost us that game.”
The Henry County game was, by far, the Eagles’ closest contest of the season, as a tie at the end of regulation sent the game into overtime. Henry County used the extra frame to pull away for the four-point win.
Before that narrow loss, the Eagles’ closest point margins this season were two 10-point defeats – one against Alcovy in the season opener, and the other, a setback against a solid Union Grove ball club that plays in a tough region and higher classification.
Against Union Grove, an abysmal four-point second quarter was Eastside’s most major pitfall as it outscored the Wolverines the rest of the game. The Eagles’ ample effort in the Union Grove game was a display of Eastside’s potential and ability to rally against a quality opponent. It’s that kind of potential that keeps Wren upbeat.
“Every day we try to encourage them, teach them more, teach them how to fight, teach them how to stay within the team construct,” Wren said.
This team has talent, made evident by its prolific scoring performance against Henry County where Eastside shattered its season high score of 55 points with 82 against the Warhawks. Players such as junior point guard, Torrie Crawford, II and senior, Dai’Veon Robinson have tried to provide backcourt help and scoring punch in the absence of graduated Eagles, Keiodre Perry, now a freshman at Northern Oklahoma, and Des Dyer.
Perry led the team in virtually every statistical category during Eastside’s 2016-17 state tournament campaign, including scoring (23.2 ppg) and rebounds (8.4 rpg). Additionally, Dyer’s 17.5 points per game is sorely missed. But Wren won’t use those two key departures as excuses.
“It’s just not having that varsity experience to sustain,” he said. “So we are trying to build that every single day in practice. We are talking them through every single part of the game. We are trying to stay positive with them. Trying to exemplify the positive and correct the negative in practice.”
Despite the early-season woes, Wren says he remains optimistic, both about the rest of this season and his program’s long-term future.
“We’re trying to build something here with these young men,” he said, “and I think it will come along.”