A classic rivalry will be renewed tonight when the Lady Eagles and Lady Rams tipoff, and both programs are eager to show they belong in the upper echelon of Georgia high school basketball.
The teams enter tonight’s’ contest with a combined 10 wins, as Eastside looks to improve its 6-1 record on its home court.
The Lady Rams are seeking their fourth win of the season and their third consecutive victory.
Both teams believe they have a shot at the win, and their styles of play mirrors each other quite well in the cross-county battle. Eastside and Newton have both relied on defense to win games this season, but both will be put to the test tonight.
“Our defense is always our focus,” Newton coach Tiffani Johnson said. “That’s one aspect of the game we try to do well every time we’re on the court. It’s something we can control every game. Offensively, we have to make easy shots and get buckets in transition if we want to win.
“If we do the same things we always do, we’re going to be in good shape,” she said. “We want to come out of here with a win.”
Johnson and the Lady Rams have won back-to-back games against region member Lovejoy and Cedar Shoals. Newton blasted the Lady Jaguars by 30 earlier this week, but the Lady Eagles will pose more of a threat.
Fresh off a win against Walnut Grove, Eastside hopes to continue its hot streak. The Lady Eagles have won three straight games since falling to Henry County Dec. 3.
Eastside may still be without leading-scorer Jazzmine Cook, who suffered an injury in the Lady Eagles’ 51-46 win over Alcovy last Saturday.
“We need to play even better defense than we have over these last couple of games,” Eastside coach Matthew Jackson said. “The intensity has to be picked up, but at the same type, they can’t get caught up in all of the hype. It’s a rivalry game, so there’s family, there are cousins, and there are aunts and uncles and a lot of outside factors that the girls have to deal with.
“You can get caught up in it and forget about what your job is on the court,” he said. “I want them to go out and compete and do their job.”
The Lady Eagles have allowed 49.3 points a game in their last three wins.
Jackson said, however, that his players have to remember to enjoy themselves on the court, even against a rival.
“Playing these games is fun,” he said. “That’s the other thing we want the girls to remember. We want to make sure that they come out and practice hard, execute hard on the court and then enjoy the win afterwards.”
Johnson said that for her, the rivalry is more than just the product on the court.
“It’s about bragging rights in the community,” she said. “There’s lots of back and forth, but it’s a good, friendly rivalry. This is what sports are all about.”
Game time is set for 7 p.m. at Eastside.