STOCKBRIDGE, Ga. — The Eastside Eagles got back on track with an impressive 60-47 victory over the Redan Raiders in the first round of the Greenberg Price Annual Christmas Tournament at Woodland High School.
With the performance that the Eagles guard Myles Rice put on against the Raiders, maybe the tournament should be called the "Greenberg Rice Annual Christmas Tournament," because of the scoring clinic Rice put on display.
Rice was unstoppable from the opening tip as he either tied or led the Eagles in scoring in each quarter of play before eventually finishing with 32 points in the contest. Rice did the majority of his scoring on the backend and helped close out the contest for his team when they needed him most.
Eagles head coach Michael Gerald was pleased with Rice's performance but knows that that is just the type of player that Rice has grown and developed to be.
"He's in that zone, and sometimes I want him just to pull it back just a little bit, but I can't fault him for always playing hard," Gerald said.
Rice helped close the game out when the Raiders started to pull closer. Although the Eagles seemed in full control throughout the contest, Gerald believes knocking off the rust after an extended time of no game action may have played in the less-dominant performance.
"That was just that rust, even though we've had periods where you don't play in a week, but we had two days of practice this week. We're not blaming that on the outcome, but I think everybody goes through that as they try to get their timing back," Gerald said. "I told them in the second half that we can't allow them the opportunity to feel like they can win it in the end if they keep it close, but I think our guys kind of responded."
It was the opening and final quarter that really seemed to be the difference in the contest as the Eagles outscored the Raiders 38-26 in those two quarters combined. The Eagles were, however, not at full strength as a key piece in Miokaye Grant was missing from the lineup due to still being on a family vacation.
With Grant out, the Eagles needed their bigs to pick up the slack, and Gerald was pleased with the way senior Jake Casola, who finished with nine points, performed in the contest.
"I'm really pleased because I had a conversation with him before we left the gym," Gerald said. "He really acted on the things we talked about, and that's what you want to see."
Despite the early stages of the first quarter, the Eagles really never trailed in the contest, but coach Gerald continued to harp on the fact that they would have to play better in their next game as county rival Alcovy waits in the wings in the second round of the tournament, which will be played at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 28, at Woodland High School.
"They're going to be good. They have great players just like we do. Last time, we played them at home, and the energy was there. The difference this time is we won't have that fanbase behind us to push us through tough moments, so we'll have to motivate intrinsically," Gerald said. "If we can match their intensity and get off to a really good start and guys, who we want to make shots, have to make shots and not allowing them to get out in transition. It'll be a good game, but I expect our guys to meet the challenge."