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PREP BASKETBALL: Eastside hoops teams sweep Salem in pivotal region action
Eastside Basketball
Graduated Eastside player Jerry Mays hugs rising junior Myles Rice after the Eagles defeated Salem in last-second fashion during a Region 4-AAAA game last season. Rice will return as one of the top returning guards in the area for the 2019-20 season. -photo by Anthony Banks

COVINGTON, Ga. — It was a night of revenge for the Eastside Eagles boys’ and girls’ basketball squads as both knocked off the Region 4-AAAA rival Salem Seminoles in big ways, following losses from each earlier in the season. 

The Lady Eagles used a game-high 16 points from Dasia Burgess, along with 13 from Alysse Dobbs to cruise to a 59-45 win, while the boys benefited from tight defense and a last-minute missed shot to come out on top 46-45. 

And although the two games saw widely different margins of victory, they were similar, both in terms of avenging earlier losses and keeping pace in Region 4-AAAA play. 

With the girl’s game kicking off the night, the Lady Eagles got off to a very hot start that included a 9-0 run in the first. The Lady Seminoles would be held scoreless for three minutes on two separate occasions. 

“I wanted to make sure that we won tonight, because we are better than what we showed in the last game,” head coach Gladys King said. 

That mindset showed in a big way as the Lady Eagles took to the locker room at halftime amassing 36 points, matching their points total for the entire game the last time these two teams met.

Although the team was exploding on offense, it was the defense only allowing 13 points at half that impressed King the most. 

“Defense is always the key,” she said. “I focus on defense, and I tell them all the time, ‘defense first, and the offense will come.’ Don’t let them score freely like it’s their house because this is our house.”

While it was Dobbs who led the team in scoring in the first half, Burgess would come out red hot in the second half scoring 11 of her team-leading 16 points.

King raved about the importance of both girls on her squad following their big nights. 

“Dasia Burgess has been awesome all year”, King said. “She has the best attitude in the world, and she is the best teammate you could have. She kind of reminds me of myself a little bit in some aspects of her game and personality.”

“Of course, Alysee is a scorer,” she continued. “She’s going to score and that’s just how she is. She’s working on her game all the time, and that pays off.”

As far as moving forward following the big win, King noted just a couple of key aspects of her squad’s game that can be improved. 

“Just cut down on some of our turnovers,” she said. “Our defense, too. We can always hone in on our defense.”

Eastside boys stave off Salem in get-back win

Following a big night from the girls, the boys entered the gym with somewhat of a chip on their shoulder after losing their last two games. Not only was this game about getting revenge against the Seminoles, but their big win kept them in the driver’s seat to control their own destiny in Region 4-AAAA. 

But the game started in opposite fashion of what the Eagles had hoped. 

Following an easy lay-up from Salem’s Xavier Eutsey in the opening seconds, the Seminoles would build  12-6 lead after the first quarter, a period where the Eagles could not catch a break with their scoring attempts. 

“I kind of figured this game would be a dog fight by the way we were struggling shooting from the perimeter,” interim head coach Mike Gerald said. “The guys stayed the course, and thankfully we came out on top.”

The dog fight really began in the second quarter when Darrell Duncombe caught fire, adding eight straight points to the team’s total, including two 3-pointers. By halftime, Eastside managed to tie the game at 21 points. 

By the third quarter, Eastside had finally sniffed its first lead. 

Even though the shooting wasn’t dominant by any stretch in the game on either side, it was the Eagle’s defense that kept Salem from extending their lead past seven points early on so that they could steal the lead later. 

“We worked on some things defensively this week,” Gerald said. “We’re doing some good things defensively, so I like where we’re at, but I feel like we can improve on that.”

“It’s a grind coming down the stretch in the region,” he said. “It’s good to split with them.”

Sitting at fifth place in the region means that every game from here on out is likely a must-win game as far as region and state tournament positioning goes, and Gerald knows that. 

“We lost some close games early in the season, and I think it’s prepared us for games like this,” he said. “I’m real happy for them, because you can gut it out and grind the entire game, and as scary as that last possession was, to still come out on top feels pretty good.”

The last possession was indeed dramatic. 

After a back and forth battle for nearly the entire second half, Eastside took the lead when Myles Rice, one of the two leaders in scoring for the Eagles, created a turnover and a foul that gave them a one-point lead. 

From there, a missed shot turned into an offensive rebound for the Seminoles, giving them one more chance at stealing the win, but a missed shot followed by a lay-up that fell in and out of the net gave Eastside the heart-stopping win.

“Once the kid got the offensive rebound, there’s nothing you can do,” Gerald said describing that last sequence of the game. “He was just trying to get it up as quick as he could, and thankfully it rolled out.”

Rice and Glover paced Eastside (10-7, 5-4) in the win with 10 points apiece while Mays chipped in with eight.

As sweet as knocking off the number two team in the region may be, the Eagles are coming down the stretch in region games as they are right outside the door of a playoff spot. That means next week’s home region matchups with North Clayton and Luella will be pivotal.