COLLEGE PARK, Ga. — They’ll be talking about this one for a long time at Eastside, but not for the reasons anyone in green and white would’ve wanted.
The Eastside Lady Eagles saw their season come to an end in the most heartbreaking of ways — at the hands of an official’s controversial, questionable call that helped Woodward Academy defeat Eastside 53-51 in the first round of the Region 4-AAAA tournament.
The game literally came down to the last second. After Woodward freshman Sydney Bowles knocked down one of two free throws to put Woodward Academy up 51-49 with 8.9 seconds left, Eastside freshman Lizzie Teasley got fouled on her way to the basket, sending her to the free throw line to shoot two shots.
Teasley calmly knocked down both shots, tying things up at 51 with three seconds left. Bowles took the ensuing inbounds pass and dribbled down the sideline past a pair of Eastside defenders, on her way to the basket.
Bowles began to go up for a shot seemingly after the buzzer sounded and the clock struck zero. On the video below, and in a still shot, it appears the ball was still in Bowles’ hands as time expired. However, a foul was called on Jamiyra Smith, sending Bowles to the line where she would sink the free throws with 0.3 seconds having been put back on the clock.
Eastside-Woodward Academy final seconds
Alysee Dobbs didn’t even have time to get off a lob to the other end of the court as time expired upon in the inbound, touching off a wild Woodward celebration and triggering copious tears from Eastside players and vocal outrage from Eagle fans.
Afterward, Eastside head coach Gladys King stepped out of the postgame locker room where Eastside players were sobbing and embracing each other. King went down the steps away from the locker room, retreated to a corner and let out her own sobs.
She made no bones about the disappointment in losing the game by way of that kind of call.
“I think the refs took one from us,” King said. “There’s no way that girl got a shot off. She didn’t get the shot off, and then the time, the buzzer goes off, and he calls a foul after the buzzer went off. So yes, the refs, he took one from us tonight.”
Though it was the most egregious from a game-changing standpoint, it definitely wasn’t the only controversial call to go against either side.
“There were other terrible calls throughout the game,” King said. “Calls that went against us, but not for us. We didn’t get the same calls they got throughout the game.”
The officiating overshadowed a brilliant performance from Woodward’s Bowles who scored a game-high 38 points, and an ultimate showing of team ball for Eastside. Dobbs led Eastside with 14 points, Teasley aided the effort with 11 and Dasia Burgess and T’Niah Douglas chipped in with nine and seven points respectively.
It was a game that Eastside had control of throughout, taking a 16-10 lead into the second quarter and holding a 26-18 advantage at halftime. Hannah Lovett chipped into the lead, knocking it back to six with a layup. But back-to-back buckets by Teasley gave Eastside it’s biggest lead of the night at 30-20 with 6:51 left in the third quarter.
Bowles started inching her team back into it, sinking shots on three of Woodward’s next four possessions. But it was a 3-pointer by Lovett that sliced Eastside’s lead to two at 33-31 with 3:03 remaining in the period.
In the fourth quarter, Bowles scored 16 of her 38 points, including a layup that tied things up at 46 with 2:12 left in regulation. She would knock down another shot to give Woodward a 50-49 lead with 40.3 seconds left in the game, and shortly before the end-game controversy ensued.
King tried to be upbeat with her girls after the loss, but reflecting on the multiple positive strides made during the season could only mask King’s disappointment for so long.
“I just told them that they accomplished a lot this year,” King said. “We’ve done some things that Eastside hadn’t done in a long time. Got to some places after having been in the bottom of our region, and kind of worked our way up at least into the top four. But I didn’t expect for us to lose that way. I didn’t expect for it to end the way it did.
“They’re heartbroken. They’re all heartbroken, from my oldest girls to my JV girls to the coaching staff. I’m heartbroken. We fought, and it wasn’t fair to those ladies in there who worked their butts off and who fought their hearts out all season long.”