COVINGTON, Ga. - The Eastside Lady Eagles did something that they have not done since 2011 as they defeated the Newton Lady Rams on the road by a score of 68-62.
With the Lady Eagles trailing by a score of 59-56 in the late stages of the fourth quarter, Eastside's seniors took over the game. After the Lady Rams had back-to-back trips at the free-throw line to earn the three-point lead, Senior T'Niah Douglas quickly cut down the deficit with a three from the corner to tie the game.
After that, Lady Eagles Alysee Dobbs went up to the free-throw line with the opportunity to give her team the lead. She went two-for-two at the moment and gave her team a lead that they would not lose for the rest of the game. She knew what she needed to do for her team at this moment and stayed locked in so that she would not let them down.
"Honestly, I know this game was going back and forth the whole time, but I know that it's not how you start to finish," Dobbs said. "If you're focused at the beginning of the game, you need to be even more focused at the end. So for me, free throws are one of my strong suits, so I knew if I want my team to win this game, I have to make these, so I just took my time and did what I did."
From that point, the Lady Eagles would reach the free-throw line and add seven more points to close out the game and cruise to their final point total.
In the early stages of the game, each time the Lady Eagles secured a lead, it seemed as if the Lady Rams had a quick response to take it back. This was especially true at the end of the second and third quarters.
In the second quarter with just a few seconds left before halftime and the Lady Eagles leading by one, Lady Rams Ashleigh Norris took the inbound pass and heaved it from halfcourt. The ball sailed through the air, and after the buzzer had sounded, it swished through to give the Rams a two-point lead at halftime.
The same exact thing happened at the end of the third quarter of play with the Lady Eagles leading the Lady Rams by two. This time it was Maka'ya Cushion, who put up a three as the buzzer echoed through the gym and converted it to give her team a one-point lead.
In the fourth quarter, the Lady Eagles had an odd play that could have been detrimental but ended up working in their favor. Trailing the Lady Rams by a 54-50 margin at the 3:41 mark, the Lady Eagles head coach Gladys King called a timeout to regroup her team.
The Lady Eagles would come out of the timeout and quickly score a basket, but a Lady Rams player would quickly shout out, "They've got six," and play was stopped. After discussion among the referees, it was determined that the basket would count, but the Lady Rams would be awarded technical free throws.
Lady Rams Alise Akridge would miss both free throws, but Norris would put up a layup to keep the Rams lead at four points. The Lady Eagles would quickly tie the game at 56-all. The Lady Rams would take a 59-56 lead after this, but the Lady Eagles closed out the game on a 12-3 run.
Coach King quickly owned up to the six-man error and simply deemed the issue to a "coaching mistake."
"I told Alysee (Dobbs) that she could check back in, and I didn't let the young lady that I was taking out to come out," King said. "So all of them went out on the floor, so it was a coaching mistake."
Despite this lapse, the Lady Eagles did not let it phase them, and they walked off the court with huge smiles as they had finally defeated their county rivals on the road. From the head coach to the players, the excitement was teeming from them after the game.
“We’ve always been the underdog, and we’ve always gotten our butts kicked by Newton,” King said. “I like the big stage where they have to come out and make the girls compete. It’s a win they deserve because they’ve been working hard and putting in work just like any other team. I’m just happy with the win and them coming in and doing what they had to do.”
T'Niah Douglas, who came dancing out the locker room, had as much of a reason as anyone to be ecstatic after the win as she led her team with 23 points. This win meant a lot to all of the seniors, and Douglas echoed that sentiment.
"It really means a lot to me. Honestly, I'm just really happy that we beat them on their court for the first time in four years," Douglas said. "It just really means a lot."
The Lady Eagles second-leading scorer Dasia Burgess, who finished with 19 points, expressed similar feelings as her teammates before her and was just excited to have completed this feat against their rivals while not letting their crowd get to them.
"As far as the crowd, we knew we had to block that out, but the win, it just feels really good," Burgess said. "When we finally won, I was just so happy for us because I knew we had it."
While there was nothing but excitement on the Lady Eagles side, the Lady Rams disappointment could be felt throughout the arena. Lady Rams head coach, Tiffani Johnson, expressed the frustration she had in the fight of her team while complimenting her opponents.
"No fight, no fight. We stepped on the floor thinking we were just going to win the game instead of taking the game like Eastside did," Johnson said. "We were just completely out of rhythm and couldn't get in sync. Eastside did a great job, came ready to play, played together, outworked us, outhustled us, and definitely deserved the win."
Despite the loss, sophomore Ashleigh Norris, who finished with a team-leading 19 points, and senior Tijunna Freeman, who finished with 14 points, both had strong nights, but it was just not enough to get past the Lady Eagles.
For the Lady Rams, they will look to get back on track at the Ball-N-Prep Invitational in Hoover, Alabama, on Thursday, Dec. 26.
The Lady Eagles will look to build from the momentum gained in this win as they go on the road to take on the Ola Mustangs on Friday, Dec. 27.