Eastside players fare well this season


Published: Thursday, January 31, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 30, 2008 at 3:45 p.m.

The Bradford County High School girls basketball team entered Eastside High School’s gymnasium with an outstanding 15-2 record, but left with a devastating 46-34 loss, as the Lady Rams, 12-11, sent seniors Diona Bryant and Aries Moore out with a bang.

The game was the final home and regular season game for Diona and Aries, and thanks to junior shooting guard Tekerya Davis, the seniors ended their Eastside regular season careers with a bang.

Tekerya scored 15 points, grabbed three rebounds and five steals to lead the Lady Rams. Diona scored nine points and had six assists, while Aries added eight points and freshman Lonna Turner scored four points and grabbed a game-high eight rebounds.

Lady Rams Head Coach Kent Johnson and his coaching staff have turned in another remarkable coaching performance this season. With a roster full of underclassmen, Johnson has guided this year’s young team to a third seed in the District 5-4A tournament that is under way through Saturday at Columbia County High School in Lake City. The championship game will be 7 Saturday night.

That is significant because they won’t have to play the most formidable team in the district, Leesburg High School, until the championship game, if they make it that far.

“One of our goals going into the season was to be a No. 2 or 3 seed in the tournament,” said Johnson, alluding to the fact that no team wants to face Leesburg until the championship game. Both teams in the championship game qualify for the state playoffs.

The winner of the game will be named district champions, while the loser will be district runner-up. Leesburg returned all five starters from a team that made it to the Final Four last year in Lakeland.

Johnson said he was disappointed in the way the Lady Rams started the season, going into the Christmas break with a 5-8 record after suffering a 14-point loss to Columbia on Dec. 21. The Lady Rams are now 7-3 and are playing good, solid, fundamental basketball going into the district tournament.

And, they are pressing teams every chance they get to maximize their overall speed.

Johnson said the main reason for the success of the team has been a coaching move he and his staff made. They moved Diona from the wing position and put her in control of the offense at point guard. With her experience, she was able to protect the ball, and the amount of turnovers the team was committing reduced drastically.

Johnson said not only did turnovers drop, he said the younger players fed off Diona’s confidence and the offense began to run like he thought it should have in the first half of the season.

“We had such a good summer working out, and I thought the younger players would have responded better in the beginning of the season than they did,” Johnson said, adding that the Lady Rams lost several close games early on that he thought they should have won.

However, he said switching Diona to point guard proved immediate dividends.

Johnson has been the head coach of the Lady Rams since the 2003-2004 season. He took over the program at a high level of success. The Lady Rams advanced to the Region II Finals in 2002-2003 and finished with a 24-4 record that year.

The Lady Rams went 81-8 Johnson’s first three years at the helm of the program for a 91 percent winning percentage. Last year was the first year one of his teams didn’t make it to the regional final. The Lady Rams lost to Jacksonville Robert E. Lee 52-44 in the regional semifinals last year.

Johnson’s record after the win against Bradford is 111-29 at Eastside, with 18 of those losses coming in the last two years with extremely inexperienced rosters, with at least half of those by fewer than five points.

The Lady Rams best year under Johnson, and best year ever, was 2005, when they went 30-1, losing only to Winter Haven in the Class 4A state championship game.

This year’s team is not that team, but Johnson said he is excited about what his team can do in the district tournament and state playoffs, if they make it.

“I’m proud they stuck together and have put together a pretty good season,” Johnson said. “I’m anxious to see how they play in the district tournament.”

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