An up-and-down region season for the Eastside Lady Eagles ended on a down note Tuesday night, as the Chestatee Lady War Eagles battled back in the fourth quarter to win the Region 8-AAAA Championship game 51-50 at Lanier High School.
Eastside fell to 14-12 on the season, while Chestatee improved to 24-4 overall. The Lady Eagles’ Jymara Smith led all scorers with 16 points, while Chestatee’s Savanna Long and Maggee Wilson each scored 12.
“We played hard, and they played hard,” Eastside coach Matthew Jackson said. “We held the lead the whole time. We threw everything out there we had. We went zone (defense) and their girls hit their shots; that’s just basketball.”
Eastside got off to a strong start, leading 7-0 with less than 90 seconds played. But Chestatee’s defense tightened and the Lady Eagles went six minutes without a point until a Deshantra Kelly basket gave the Lady Eagles a slim 9-7 lead after one period.
In the second quarter, Chestatee’s 3-point shooting kept the Lady War Eagles in the game. In fact, all but two of Chestatee’s 23 first-half points were either 3-pointers or free throws. Eastside led 21-14 with 2:03 left before half-time, but turnovers – eight in the first half – allowed the Lady War Eagles to stay in the game and only trail by three, 26-23, going into the locker room.
Eastside drew first blood in the third period on a nifty offensive rebound and lay-in by senior guard Adriana Spears, giving the Lady Eagles a 28-23 lead. Neither team played its best basketball in the period, as turnovers, sloppy defense and both teams committing charges limited the scoring chances. Chestatee was able to break Eastside’s full-court pressure, though, and trailed 38-34 going to the fourth quarter.
The Lady War Eagles scored first to trim the lead to two, but Spears hit a 3-pointer and was fouled and had a chance to extend Eastside’s lead to six points. Spears missed the free-throw, and that’s when Chestatee’s Savanna Long and Maggee Wilson went to work. Wilson scored four consecutive points and Long added a 3-point shot to give the Lady War Eagles their first lead of the game, 44-41, with 6:13 left in the contest.
Eastside was its own worst enemy in the fourth quarter as it committed multiple turnovers (nine more in the half for a total of 17), traveled with the ball, and had a Jymara Smith basket disallowed because of a charging call.
Chestatee’s 2-3 zone was effective throughout the game and was a major reason Eastside star Zaria Hall-Barton was held to eight points, including one in the second half.
With 38 seconds left in the game, Chestatee missed a shot after Smith’s charging foul, and Smith was fouled getting the rebound. She hit both free-throws to put the Lady Eagles up 50-49. However, the Lady War Eagles’ Tyler Bennett broke through the Eastside defense and hit a lay-up to give Chestatee the win, 51-50.
Eastside returns to action Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. against Marist in the opening round of the Class AAAA state tournament.