Eastside came into Tuesday’s matchup with Locust Grove 2-9 and winless in region play (0-2), but the Lady Eagles wouldn’t leave the floor without their first region win with a season-high in points in the 59-27 win over the Lady Wildcats.
“It feels great,” Gladys King, Lady Eagles’ head coach, said after the team’s first region win. “It feels good to be able to see the girls do some of the things that we work on in practice. We work on the H-drill all the time. They see the three-on-two, knowing how to do those type things in a game when they see it and they had fun tonight.”
The first 1:42 of the game was characterized by missed layups on both sides but a jumper from Ally Chandler gave Eastside a 2-0 lead for the first score of the game.
Eastside's defense gave the team another scoring opportunity and Teirra Brown scored on a transition layup for a 6-4 lead. The lid remained on top of the basket for both teams, but it was the Lady Eagles who held a 7-6 lead at the end of the first period.
Chasity Smith put in a layup off her own missed shot and lifted Eastside to a 9-6 lead in the second. Brown would find Sydney Mask, who King praised for her growth this season, for a layup after getting the rebound off her own missed free throw to extend the lead. Mask would go 1-2 from the line on the following posssession as the Lady Eagles built a 12-7 lead.
Getting to the foul line wasn't a problem for the Lady Eagles. Eastside was able to get into the paint in transition and within its half court offense and draw fouls in the second period.
In an usual score, Brown added another bucket for Newton when Locust Grove inbounded the ball but the guard wasn't ready and the ball bounced to half court where Brown raced to receive it, unguarded, and take it to the hole.
At halftime, the Lady Eagles led 18-11 after fouling Peyton Lewis, who hit one of two, in the closing seconds of the second period. All four Lady Wildcat second quarter points were at the free throw line as the Lady Eagles held them without a field goal.
Destine Smith would nail a three under the six minute mark to double Eastside’s lead at 24-12, capping off a 6-1 run to begin the third frame.
Mask connected on a running layup to put Eastside up by 14 (30-16) with almost three minutes left to play in the third.
After a low scoring first half, Eastside jumped on Locust Grove and its zone defense, making the extra pass while still getting out in transition when opportunities arose.
“When we went into halftime I told them I didn’t see them run the offense, but maybe once in that first half. The second half I wanted to see them run the offense a little bit more, pass and cut, knock down the big shot, look inside,” King said. “Our defense also picked up too. We switched our defense to a triangle-and-two. I switched it up to a triangle-and-two, that threw them off a little bit. [Lewis] couldn’t get her shots off, she couldn’t get the ball the way she wanted to. I told them I’d rather somebody else beat us than No.1 and [Lewis], and I took them away from the ball.”
The Lady Eagles more than doubled their first half total and carried a 40-20 lead into the final quarter. Defense was the Lady Eagles’ calling card, holding Locust Grove to nine points in the third.
When they weren't scoring off turnovers, Eastside’s half court offense was converting baskets by attacking the zone, pulling defenders away from the paint and getting it to the open player.
After the bench maintained the lead early in the fourth, the starters entered the contest with under five minutes to play. Brown splashed in her second three of the period to lift the Lady Eagles to a 52-26 lead.
“I preach defense all the time,” King said of Brown’s tenacious defense on the night. “I tell her, ‘The shots not falling, play defense. Steal the ball, attack the basket. Always attack the basket if your shot is not falling.’ She did what I asked her to do and I’m proud of her.”
Eastside would win its first region game 59-27. Brown led all scorers with 22 points.