Special to The Covington News
By Richard Dumas, Monroe County News
FORSYTH, Ga. — Despite an epic performance from shooting guard Keiodre Perry, who scored 49 points, including 17 in the fourth quarter, the Eastside Eagles had their season come to a close in a heartbreaking 81-77 loss at Mary Persons on Friday.
The Eagles finished the season with an 18-10 record, falling in the first round of the state playoffs for the fifth time in the last six seasons.
With Eastside trailing 74-70, Perry made perhaps the most unlikely shot of his Eagles' career, drilling a 24-foot three-pointer off the glass while being fouled with 24 seconds left. Perry then converted the ensuing free throw for a four-point play that tied the contest at 74-all.
Instead of holding for the final shot, Mary Persons pushed the ball up the floor quickly. After a series of perimeter passes, Mary Person’s Rekia Weaver found Bulldogs' star Cam Holden for an open look from three from the left wing.
Holden, who was just 5-15 from the field in a tough shooting night, drained the game's biggest shot to put the Dogs' ahead 77-74 with 12 seconds remaining. Then, Mary Persons’ Tre Edge stole the ball from an Eastside ball-handler moments later before connecting with teammate Clay Moore for a layup with 5 seconds left to put the Bulldogs ahead by five at 79-74.
After an Eastside timeout, Perry drilled a long three in front of his team's bench with 1.3 seconds left for his final three points, which trimmed MP's lead to 79-77. After an Eagles' foul, Mary Persons’ Tre Edge buried two free throws with a single-tenth of a second remaining to seal the four-point Bulldogs' win.
Mary Persons will next play the winner of the first-round contest between St. Pius X and Ridgeland in the second round of the AAAA state playoffs on Thursday.
Des Dyer was the only other Eastside player in double figures with 13 points. Mary Persons was led by Holden's 22 points. Teammate Moore added 20 points while two other Bulldogs, Rekia Weaver and Edge, scored 11 points each.
In one of the most exciting games in the history of James P. Evans Gymnasium, the Bulldogs jumped out to a five-point lead on a layup in traffic by Holden followed by a three-pointer by Weaver. But Perry's scoring onslaught began early in the first, dropping a trey of his own to pull the Eagles within 5-3.
Eastside's Ryan Burgess tied the game for the first time at 8-8 with a three-pointer, and the Eagles took their first lead moments later at 10-8 on a pair of Perry free throws. After Mary Persons reclaimed a three-point lead late in the first quarter, Perry closed the period out with another triple to tie the score at 13-all through one quarter.
Mary Persons led 16-15 early in the second quarter when Eastside's Jerry Mays buried a lefty trey from the left corner to put the Eagles ahead 18-16. Mays' triple started an 18-4 Eagles' run, capped by a trey from the top of the key by Perry that put Eastside in front by 14 at 33-19.
However, foul trouble was a problem throughout for the Eagles in a physical contest, and numerous Mary Persons trips to the free throw line late in the second quarter enabled it to hang close.
The Bulldogs then got within a single point at 39-38 midway through the third period, but Perry continued his blazing shooting. The Eagles' standout answered Mary Persons’ charge by dropping a trey from the left elbow. He then crossed over Holden and drove right, finishing with the right hand at the rim while being fouled for a three-point play.
Perry continued scorching the nets in the fourth quarter. The guard ripped an open three off of excellent ball rotation to cap a 5-0 Eastside run that put the Eagles back up by seven at 62-55.
After the Bulldogs went on a 7-1 run to grab a 65-63 edge Perry answered again, this time fewer than 10 seconds later, with a long two-point jumper. He then sized up a Mary Persons defender on Eastside's next possession and splashed another long two to put Eastside in front 67-65.
Then, with the score tied at 70-apiece, Perry banked in a long off-balance two-pointer to put his squad up 72-70 which helped set the stage for the dramatic final 30 seconds of the game.
Mary Persons head coach Greg Nix said Perry's 49-point performance was one of the finest individual efforts he's ever seen against one of his squads.
"He just kept on," Nix said. "I felt like that there were a lot of people just watching him play offense. And when we stepped out on him and played the on-ball screen correctly, he didn't make it. That guy is good. He's really good."