LOCUST GROVE, Ga. — With regard to high school sports, some things change, but sometimes they stay the same. Just ask Eastside’s head boys basketball coach, Brent Wren, whose team picked up a third straight win over the Luella Lions, 62-47, Friday night.
The Eagles were paced by a game-high 20 points from Jerry Mays.
The familiarity in the opponent was part of the reason Wren thinks his team was so successful throughout the game.
“You are familiar with who their shooters are, and the kids are used to playing them,” he said. “One of the things we talked about is it’s hard to beat a team three times, no matter who it is. The team that’s been beaten twice, they don’t want to be beaten anymore, so they have a will to fight. We talked about it before the game that they were going to come out and try to make a run, so we have to weather that. We have to do what we do.”
Contrary to the first time these teams met, the Eagles came out swinging from the first quarter. Not only did they display consistent shooting, but they also showed aggressiveness, particularly on the offensive glass. Their commanding play helped them to an 18-9 lead after the first quarter.
The hard-nosed style of play was exactly what Wren and his staff were preparing the team for entering the game.
“We wanted to see more of the intensity,” he said. “We decided that we have to play at our pace. We’ve been conditioning all year and running all year, and now we’re at the point where we are trying to apply pressure for 32 minutes.”
That pressure seemingly got into the Lions’ head, which the Eagles capitalized on. Although they entered the locker room at the half with only 29 points, they seemingly dominated defensively, only allowing eight points in the second quarter after Luella went on two three-minute scoring droughts.
“Keep the orange ball away from the orange basket,” Wren said with a chuckle.
“By them playing up, they don’t have a chance to drop back and think about where they are,” he continued. “They are out there just reacting. That’s what we want from them, so in practice, we are just drilling over and over for every situation, so when they are in the game, they are just doing it instead of dropping back and thinking about it.”
Setting the tone early offensively to set up the defensive game plan was a noticeable difference from the first time these two teams met to the last game. In the first meeting, the Eagles fell into an 8-0 hole early, and had to fight their way back into the game, which the ultimately won.
This time around, the dominance persisted for all 32 minutes. After the first quarter, the Eagles' lead never fell below 10 points, leading them to the easy 15-point win.
The consistent change in the way the Eagles performed against the Lions in the three games they met in is a parallel summary to the continual progress that this team has shown, despite a well below .500 record.
“One of the things at the beginning, like I said before, this is an inexperienced team basketball wise,” Wren said. “We’re young and have a lot of juniors playing, but this team has been kind of a put-together. You have a one or two that have always been at Eastside, then you have a few transfers, so they all really haven’t had the chance to gel. This whole season has been a part of that process.”
With the postseason not in reach, Wren is looking at a few different ways to finish the season strong.
“Energy and effort,” he said referring to what he wants to see. “That is what we want from them. Everything will take care of itself. As you can see, they are a skilled group of kids. A lot of times that skill turns into finesse, and that finesse, sometimes at the varsity level, can get in the way. So, energy and effort are what were focused on.”