Eastside might be below .500 overall, but the Eagles are winning games that matter most. They improved to 10-11 overall but more importantly, moved to 8-4 in region play after a 56-47 win over Sandy Creek Friday.
Eastside started quickly and never looked back. The Eagles scored the first 12 points and held Sandy Creek scoreless for the first four minutes of the quarter until the Patriots closed the opening period with an 8-4 run.
“That’s what we stress. We want to come out and push the ball — push the running game and try to put people on their heels a little bit,” Eastside coach Gregory Freeman said.
Anthony Henderson had his best game as an Eagle, scoring a game-high 19 points and was aggressive in the open floor. Quindarrious Russell added 11 and Denada Thomas pitched in with an efficient nine points to round out Eastside’s top scorers.
“I thought we got a really good game out of (Denada) Thomas,” Freeman said. “He’d been struggling but he came out focused and played well.”
Eastside led 16-8 after one period and pushed its lead to 31-18 by halftime thanks in large part to a team-wide defensive effort. Led by Henderson’s scoring and Chavis Williams’ all-around play, the Eagles maintained their double-digit lead throughout the second half.
“I can’t say enough about( Chavis) Williams. He plays everywhere on the floor. He guards a guard. He guards a center. He’s outmuscled almost every night but he moves his feet and you have to have a glue guy. He’s that guy. He’ll get the rebound when we need it he’s the guy who picks up a charge. It has to be a team thing and I’m, trying to get to where I can rotate guys in and win and build at the same time.”
Sandy Creek pulled to within seven early in the fourth but Eastside didn’t suffer a major lull that has plagued the Eagles in their losses. Instead Henderson kept up the offensive pressure and Russell’s work on the offensive and defensive glass was enough to push Eastside’s lead back to 11 late in the game.
“At some point at time it all boils down to following the script. Shot making, hitting free throws and making layups and making sure we play defense,” Freeman said. “We have a few wrinkles we have to work out but we played well tonight.”
In the girls’ game, Eastside continued its roller coaster season with a 48-29 loss. After defeating Henry County handedly Tuesday, the Lady Eagles suffered through a tough night. Sandy Creek jumped on them from the opening tip and never let up in handing them just their third region loss of the season.
Much like the boys, the girls have an average overall record (12-9) but are in great shape to earn one of the top two seeds heading into the region tournament next month.
“Our focus from day one is to make the state playoffs,” Freeman said. “You look at the games we’ve lost and think -- we could be better. We have two big road games this week and we’re going to be a force to be reckoned with. We’re not going to roll over. I’m not saying this to slight anyone but this isn’t the old Eastside.”