Eastside edges GHS to claim top seed in district

Published: Thursday, January 25, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 24, 2007 at 2:51 p.m.
Eastside High School secured the top seed in next month's District 4-5A boys basketball tournament with a 63-62 win Friday over Gainesville. The win, in front of a near-capacity crowd at the Santa Fe Community College gymnasium, was the Rams' first over an area opponent this season.
The Rams (18-2) were led in scoring by GHS-transfer Eric Williams, who scored 12 points in place of the team's leading scorer Dante Anderson. Anderson missed all but two minutes of the second half for various reasons.
"I don't think (Anderson) was letting everyone play," said Eastside coach Pop Williams. "We told him he was going to have to sit back and stop forcing stuff.
"Then on one play he hurt his shoulder. We asked him to go back in to play and he said his shoulder was hurt. We weren't going to put any pressure on him. We had to win with the other kids."
Anderson scored nine of his 11 points in a first quarter that saw Eastside jump out to a 20-12 lead. After scoring only three points in the second, including a scoreless span of 3:48, the Rams came out firing in the third. A 22-point period extended a three point halftime lead to 11, 45-34, heading into the final quarter.
Down eight with 15 seconds remaining, the 'Canes (16-4) put pressure on Eastside's inbound passes and forced two consecutive turnovers that resulted in a 6-0 run that trimmed their deficit to 61-59 with five seconds to play.
Eric Williams was fouled on the ensuing play and connected on two free throws to seal the Eastside victory. A Pete Atkins three-point attempt at the buzzer was not enough to overcome the four-point lead.
"I was calm," said Williams, who scored all of his points in the second half. "I knew I was going to hit (the free throws)."
The late free throws were part of a 14 out of 18 night from the line for the Rams, something that was key in overcoming the Hurricanes' 21-30 free throw shooting.
"We shot really well from the free throw line," said Coach Williams. "I think we were more focused more than any other game we had been in this year."
Greg Gantt, who hit the game-winning shot against Eastside in the teams' last meeting, led all scorers with 26 points, including 10-of-11 from the free throw line. His back-to-back 3-pointers in the third quarter was Gainesville's only scoring on a 15-6 run that extended Eastside's lead to a game-high 12.

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