All the Eagles needed to pick up their first win under first-year head coach Gregory Freeman was a little home cooking. It didn’t hurt the Eagles played an offensively-challenged Locust Grove team too. Nevertheless, the Wildcats were just what the doctor ordered and the eagles took advantage.
After opening the season under Freeman with three straight losses, Eastside outscored the Wildcats in every quarter and came away with a convincing 66-26 win.
Ben Miller led the way with 13 points and Michael Chapman hit a career-high three 3-pointers to finish with nine points on the night. Dominic Harris and Robert Rankins each scored eight and Lyndanius Benton chipped in with seven to round out a collective offensive effort.
“When you play a lot of guys like a (Robert) Rankins who I think had been cut every year, or a (Michael) Chapman — when they find a comfort zone, it makes a big difference,” Freeman said. “I liked the fact that he (Chapman) was really serious about what he needed to do all day and in the shoot around and it showed.”
Outside of the lopsided loss to Alcovy two weeks ago, the Eagles have been in each game but had yet to close out the games. This time Eastside led from the opening tip and never looked back.
Even a host of missed dunks in the first quarter couldn’t derail the Eagles. They led 13-1 at the end of one quarter even though they did leave eight points on the table from those misses.
“That was a style thing. Just get me the bucket,” Freeman said. “It might have been an adrenaline rush. From what I understand this is the biggest crowd they’ve had in four years.”
Eastside was aggressive defensively and had eight steals in the first 12 minutes. They eventually settled down and instead of trying to make the spectacular play, started to turn those turnovers into points and took a 28-10 lead into halftime.
“I addressed that (the missed dunks). That’s definitely a concern,” Freeman said. “I told them in the locker room, ‘you have to play within the system’. If they play within the system, they can play with anyone. We showed glimpses of that then they’d revert back to whatever they knew before me. It has to be a consistent thing for us to be able to play in this region, which I think we can do.”
In the second half, the Eagles went to the outside game and found success. They hit four threes in the third quarter. Chapman’s three inside of a minute left in the period gave the Eagles a 30-point lead and after a stop, Miller came back and drained a three at the buzzer to put them up 49-16. Eastside outscored the Wildcats 21-6 in the period.
The Eagles kept up the pressure and closed out the game strong, outscoring Locust Grove 17-10 in a six-minute fourth quarter.
Freeman vowed to turnaround the struggling program when he took over this summer. While it took him four tries to notch that first win, he expects more to come.
“I’m happy for them because collectively, they’ve never beaten anyone like that,” Freeman said. “Winning is habitual. We can look at the film and see enough good things to build on. There was a lot of positive stuff tonight.”