COLLEGE PARK, Ga. - Eastside fell behind early and struggled to catch up in their meeting with the Woodward Academy War Eagles that ended in a 63-50 defeat for the Eagles in a nonregion high school basketball game.
The Eagles trailed the War Eagles at the halftime break by a score of 31-16, and that margin would hold for much of the second half. The Eagles' early offensive struggles played a role in the 13-point loss, but there were many areas that stood out to Eagles head coach Michael Gerald.
"I think a lot of it was that we didn't execute offensively as we have been," Gerald said. "I like the fact that we kept working and playing hard, but we couldn't get enough stops when we needed to. That was the bottomline that once we got the offense going, we couldn't get those needed stops."
Gerald went on to say that this game could be used as a measuring stick for his Eagles to see how good they really are. Playing a team that has been listed as the No. 1 team in AAAA as tightly as they did at some points should leave the Eagles with a sense of optimism despite the loss.
7-foot center Walker Kessler, who is listed as the No. 15 overall player in the country for 2020 on 247sports, was among the top scorers for the War Eagles in the contest with 18 points, but Gerald was pleased with his team's ability to not let Kessler completely control the game.
However, Gerald believes his team's inability to stop other members of the War Eagles was the key difference in the game.
"That's always the plan. It's not to stop him; it's can you slow him down enough that you can be effective," Gerald said. "It's the other people around him that scored some buckets that we didn't count on them scoring."
One such player who had a strong showing for the War Eagles was Will Richard, who led all scorers on the night with 22 points. Gerald knows that not allowing other members involved will have to be a part of the team's game plan.
On the other hand, the Eagles were led Myles Rice, who finished with 18 points, and Chauncey Wiggins, who finished with 10 points. Gerald said he was pleased to see Wiggins get going early, which had not been the case in other contests.
Late in the game, another scoring threat emerged for the Eagles in a player who had hit the court for the first time after finishing up in one other sports season.
"Jaylen Woods came in off the bench coming right off the football field, and we always knew he had that skill," said Gerald. "He can shoot it and score in bunches."
Woods came in the fourth quarter and quickly put up four threes, bringing the Eagles within single digits of the War Eagles. Those four shots would bring Woods to his final tally of 12 points, but that small glimpse showed how effective he could be on the floor for the Eagles.
Gerald said that despite the offensive struggles on the night, he still is hoping for the most improvement to come from the defensive efforts of the Eagles in their upcoming matches.
The Eagles next game will come in the Spalding Thanksgiving Classic on Monday, Nov. 25, where they will face New Creation Christian Academy.