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Lady Eagles strive for championship
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For Eastside varsity girls head basketball coach Matthew Jackson, making the playoffs just isn’t enough.

Although the Lady Eagles have reached the postseason the past five seasons, Jackson wants more.

As he begins his sixth year as the Lady Eagles’ head coach, and his eighth year overall on the bench at Eastside, Jackson has one main goal in mind for Eastside.

“A state championship,” he said. “That’s what we’re looking for.”

The Lady Eagles finished above .500 last season, but fell in the first round of the state playoffs. Jackson said that this season, he believes he has the veteran senior leadership, and underclassman talent, to make a deep run in the playoffs.

“We’re still trying to get over the hump,” Jackson said. “My second year we went to the Sweet 16, but we’re trying to go even further than that. We have a group of girls that has been playing together for a while. I’m excited to get this season started and see what they can do.”

For that to happen, Jackson will look to his seven returning seniors to lead his program. Jackson has seen the Lady Eagles progress from last season, growing his expectations for his upperclassmen.

“Jazzmine Cook is going to be a leader for us this season,” Jackson said. “She’s one of our strongest players and will lead our group of seniors. She’s a vocal presence on the court and we’re looking for big things out of her.

“Zaria Barton, Jasmine Green, Jazmyn Jackson, Jymara Smith, Adriana Spears and Deshantra Kelly will also be looked upon to lead as well. Those seniors are going to have to be leaders for some of our younger players. If those girls can lead and blend in together, it’s going to be big for us.”

Jackson said that the Lady Eagles will play an up-and-down style of offense and defense, using its defensive intensity to fuel their offensive production.

“We primarily run a motion offense, but our offense is basically predicated on our defense,” he said. “We play good, hard defense that we turn into our offense. We like to create turnovers, get out and run with the ball.”

Even with his senior leaders, Jackson said the program still has to work on its depth to make a late-season run to a region championship against rivals Stephens County, Madison County or Chestatee.

“Even with our seven seniors, we still have a lot of inexperienced girls who are going to look at them to help them out,” Jackson said. “We’re going to have to look to our bench late in the season, and they’re going to need to be ready.”

With the season set to begin in less than two weeks, Jackson said he believes the Lady Eagles will be successful because of how they rely on one another.

“I think that our biggest strength is that our girls play for one another,” Jackson said.

The Lady Eagles begin their season on the road at the Morrow Tournament against Riverdale at 3:30 p.m. on Nov. 27.