East­side trav­els to Cairo

Ea­gles move to new Re­gion

The Covington News - - Front page - Sports Edi­tor Josh Briggs

East­side’s 2009 bas­ket­ball sea­son had its fair share of ups and downs. The Ea­gles fin­ished 10-16 over­all but at 5-4 in Re­gion 8-AAA had a win­ing record in league play and made the state play­offs.

“I thought we had a bet­ter year than I an­tic­i­pated we would with the amount of kids we grad­u­ated the year be­fore,” East­side coach Michael Ger­ald said. “The kids re­ally made a dif­fer­ence when they had to make a dif­fer­ence. They con­tin­ued to be­lieve in what we were do­ing. Ob­vi­ously you wish you could have won more games but the goal at the end is to put your­self in po­si­tion to make the state tour­na­ment. You want to be play­ing your best bas­ket­ball when it counts.”

East­side lost to state cham­pion Columbia in a spir­ited ef­fort. The Ea­gles were within four points in that game late be­fore Columbia fin­ished the game on a run to dispatch East­side in the open­ing round. With the 2010 sea­son here, what are East­side’s chances of re­turn­ing to the play­offs and per­haps be­yond?

East­side lost its lead­ing scorer and re­bounder in Jhaustin Thomas who trans­ferred to Columbia over the sum­mer. Iron­i­cally it was Thomas who played so well in the state tour­na­ment game at Columbia against the even­tual state champs. Now, East­side will have to fill the void left af­ter Thomas played the past two years for the Ea­gles.

“It’s tough but in this day an age, it can hap­pen to any­one,” Ger­ald said. “If we lived in At­lanta, you could have a player one day that’s gone an­other. You could have a player who has six friends who play AAU ball

to­gether and the next year, he’s gone. That’s un­for­tu­nately the way it is. I could sit here and feel sorry for my pro­gram but you can’t you have to work with what you have and con­tinue to work hard.”

With­out Thomas, East­side sud­denly goes from a team with a le­git­i­mate in­side pres­ence to a smaller group who will rely on sev­eral play­ers in­clud­ing Shel­don Rank­ins to make up for the loss.

“We’re go­ing to have to rely on a num­ber of dif­fer­ent peo­ple,” Ger­ald said. “When you don't have Jhaustin, you don’t have that one per­son that sta­bi­lizes in­side play on of­fense or de­fense.” Ger­ald said. “It’ll be an ad­just­ment. We’ll have to change our scheme a lit­tle bit. We’ll use as many peo­ple as we can af­ford to use and hope­fully with the kids we play in that role, we’ll get the job done.”

East­side moves to a new re­gion for the third time in four years. Af­ter play­ing teams are far north as El­ber­ton the past two years as a part of Re­gion 8-AAA, the Ea­gles are now a part of Re­gion 4-AAA. The trav­el­ing will cer­tainly be eas­ier for East­side. You can’t say that about the com­pe­ti­tion.

“Any­time you can shorten your travel by and hour or an hour and a half, that’ll ben­e­fit you in the long run,” Ger­ald said. “I know there will be some good bas­ket­ball teams (in the new re­gion). I don’t know a whole lot about them. But I think Henry County, Ea­gles Land­ing, Spald­ing and Stock­bridge — they'll all be good teams. These teams have done well in the past. I think this re­gion is as good if not bet­ter than what we're com­ing out of. We’ll have to come ready to play ev­ery night.”

If East­side is go­ing to com­pete for a play­off seed, the Ea­gles will have to be more con­sis­tent. That may be eas­ier said than done. Only three play­ers re­turn with any sig­nif­i­cant var­sity ex­pe­ri­ence.

“We’d like to get off to a good start and from there it’s about con­sis­tency,” Ger­ald said. “You have to play at a cer­tain level night in and night out and when you don’t play at that level — if you take a night off, you might not do well against a team that at least on paper, you should do well against. We have a young team; there­fore, we have the ten­dency to not fully un­der­stand what’s at hand. But still, I’m telling these kids if they are go­ing to play at this level, you have to play a cer­tain way ev­ery night and give your­self a chance to win re­gard­less of who you are play­ing.”

Whether or not East­side can make a run will be de­pen­dent on how quickly the play­ers come to­gether. They won’t have much time to waste. Three of the Ea­gles' first five games are against ri­vals Al­covy, Newton and Her­itage from the Re­gion 8-AAAA days and East­side opens re­gion play against Henry County in just its third game.

“We have a lot of young guys,” Ger­ald said. “We hope that they con­tinue to work hard and maybe we can catch a break here or there and try to be ready at the end of the year when they play­offs come around. That’s our goal. We hope to be play­ing our best at the end of the sea­son, and if can make it in the play­offs, ev­ery­one starts with a clean record. Any­thing can hap­pen.”

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