Eastside (10-9, 6-6 Region 4-AAAA) played like something was on the line in the fourth quarter of its matchup with region foe Locust Grove, and probably unbeknownst to the players, they were. With the eventual dominant 69-53 win over the Warriors, Eastside head coach, Gregory Freeman earned the 370th win of his career.
Although the win was special, signifying Freeman’s constant success, his attitude toward the way the team won encompasses why he’s been able to have this much success. The final score might say something like, “Eastside blew this team out of the water, with no problems.” But the truth is, Eastside played inconsistently. The Eagles were up by just five with three minutes and six seconds left, before finishing the game on a 15-4 run.
“It’s about trust. When we get [hot], we make a lot of careless mistakes, careless passes. We can’t play that way,” Freeman said.
This team is young in experience, despite having six seniors. Last year, the Eagles went 23-4 and 9-0 in the region. They lost six of their leading scorers from that team, but other than the talent and experience, Freeman says communication is the difference between the two teams.
“The difference between this group and last year’s group is last year’s group was very cohesive and extremely tight-knit, Freeman said. “You could see it on the floor. They almost knew where everybody was gonna be and who was gonna be in the rotation. And they talked so much better, this group doesn’t talk like they need to.
One of the seniors, Marquise Sims a three-point marksman, went down in the second quarter with a knee injury in the game, and had to be helped off the court. He’s been a big part of Eastside’s offense this year, as he’s likely the team’s best/most consistent shooter.
Freeman says that he expects Quintrell Mathis to step up if Sims misses extended time. While he also expects Raytavious Jackson, who scored 18 points in the game to lead the team in scoring, to continue to grow as a player.
“He’s embraced the role of running up and down the court and being active as a small forward,” Freeman said of Jackson’s growth.
“He’s what they call a livewire. You can tell he’s raw. I think this is his second year playing. He played last year as a 10th grader on JV. He improves because he works hard. He just outworks people,” Freeman added. “ He’s starting to trust in his ability from working hard in the off-season to increase his skill set. If we can increase it, he’ll be a much, much better player. He’s all over the place now, but he’ll be a much better player down the road.
Bench play and missing easy shots has plagued the Eagles all season. Freeman says that he wants to be able to go to his bench. The usual first man off the bench will miss time due to academic ineligibility.
“You miss [Keiodre] Perry, and you miss having him and being able to rotate him in with that second group, but we have to find somebody in that group. I think Quintrell Mathis can be that guy that can get points for us. We need them,” Freeman said.
Freeman believes his first five can play with anybody, and that he just needs those sixth, seventh and eight men that can contribute to the team.
As of now, the Eagles are taking it all one game at a time. The next game for Eastside is Tuesday at Eagle’s Landing 7:30 p.m.