Lady Rams play hard ball at tournament

Published: Thursday, January 4, 2007 at 11:33 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 4, 2007 at 11:33 a.m.
The Eastside High School Lady Rams basketball team participated in the Invitational tournament held Dec. 27-30 at Gainesville High School and had an impressive showing that pleased Coach Kent Johnson.
Other local teams that competed in the tournament included GHS, the host, Buchholz High School, and P.K. Yonge. P.K. Yonge made it to the tournament's championship game and lost to nationally ranked First Academy High School from Orlando, 51-49.
First Academy is the defending state champions in Class 2A, and is led by senior Krystal Thomas, who won MVP honors at the tournament, and is one of the nation's most heavily recruited seniors.
The Lady Rams came in fifth place out of 16 teams in the tournament. They defeated Frostproof 55-23 on Wednesday, then lost to First Academy 57-37 on Thursday. They bounced back the last two days of the tournament, beating Cocoa 61-55 on Friday and Jacksonville Wolfson 33-29 on Saturday.
In the game against Cocoa, the Lady Rams never gave up and pulled out a tough victory. Cocoa had a height advantage, but the gritty Eastside squad was not fazed and kept its poise to the end.
Cocoa won the tip and asserted its post game early, taking a 2-0 lead right away off a basket down low. Eastside's Sharnae Ivery answered with a 3-pointer that put the Lady Rams ahead 3-2. Cocoa scored another basket deep in the paint to take a 4-3 lead.
The Rams played a 2-3 zone on defense, and the coaches wanted to front Cocoa's center to prevent her from getting the ball down low. The tactic worked, and although Cocoa scored points in the paint, the Lady Rams played solid team ball and were ahead 18-17 at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter began with Ivery scoring on a short jumper to make the score 20-17. Cocoa came right back down the court and scored to make the score 20-19. A few moments later, Cocoa tied the score at 20 after making one of two free throws.
Ivery then received a nice pass from Whitley Washington going to the hole for an easy layup to make the score 22-20. Cocoa came right back and tied the game again at 22. Ivery then got fouled and went to the line, where she made one of two free throws to give Eastside a one-point lead, 23-22.
Tekerya Davis got into the action for the Lady Rams, scoring on a running short jumper to extend the Lady Rams' lead to 25-22. Eastside took its largest lead of the first half when Washington went to the line and made one of two free throws to put the Lady Rams up 26-22. The half ended with the Rams ahead 28-27.
The second half began just like the first half, with Cocoa trying to assert itself down low. The strategy worked as Cocoa took a 40-33 lead, and ended the third quarter with a 43-37 lead.
The fourth quarter began with Chennelle Anderson draining a 3-pointer for Eastside to make the score 40-43. Cocoa then made a free throw and scored on a short jumper to make the score 46-40. Eastside responded as Anderson fed Washington a slashing to the basket for an uncontested layup to make the score 46-42.
Ivery got back into the action, scoring down low to make the score 46-44 with 5:50 left in the game. The Lady Rams outscored Cocoa 17-9 the rest of the game, using a little of North Carolina Dean Smith's four-corner offense to kill the clock and clutch free-throw shooting to put the game on ice.
Johnson said he learned a lot about young his team.
"They have a lot of heart," Johnson said. "They showed me that against First Academy yesterday (Thursday), the fifth-ranked team in the nation. They could have lost by 40 points, but they never quit playing. First Academy has five girls that are going to sign with colleges."
Johnson said he sees improvement in his young team.
"Each game we are getting better and better," Johnson said.
Robert Moramarco, an Eastside graduate and geometry teacher at GHS, organized the tournament. He said 49 colleges and nine recruiting services visited the tournament.
"I was very pleased with the turnout," he said. "It was phenomenal. The support from the community was definitely there. I've already been contacted by other schools that want to participate in the next tournament, including a powerhouse team out of Maryland."
Moramarco said he is looking for more sponsors, especially to bring in out-of-state teams. He said the original sponsors were pleased with the turnout.
"It's taking off," he said.
Moramarco also said he was happy to see his alma matter do well.
"Coach Johnson and his coaching staff did a great job," he said. "They kept the players focused, and to finish in fifth place is a great accomplishment for such a young team. They don't have a lot of height, but they have a lot of speed and ballhandling ability. And you must cover the 3-point line because if they get hot, they will shoot you out of the gym."
Making the all tournament team were MVP Thomas, Tierra Brown and Erin Knight of First Academy; Crystal Johnson and Jaterra Bonds of P.K. Yonge; D.A. Hilliard of Buchholz; Jacksonville Jackson's Desiree O'Neal, Eastside's Sharnae Ivery, Jacksonville Wolfson's Nichelle Glover, Florida High's Jayme Warner, and Haines City's Marquese Lee.
This year's tournament will take place Dec. 26-29, also at GHS.

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