Eastside boys compete in Dante Invitation


Eastside High School player Rodney Mills, left, defends Darnel Brazile of Agape Christian Academy of Orlando during the annual Dante Anderson Memorial Invitation held last Saturday at Eastside.

BRAD McCLENNY/Special to the Guardian
Published: Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 7:24 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 7:24 p.m.

The Eastside Rams closed out the five-game 4th annual Dante Anderson Memorial Invitation last Saturday with an impressive 69-56 win over Orlando Agape Christian.

The tournament is played in honor of Anderson, a former Eastside great who died in a car crash in May 2007. He was the MVP of the Class 5A final four in 2006 when, as a sohpomore, he led the Rams to their only state championship.

At the time of his death, he was the consensus No. 1 prospect in the state, with scholarship offers from numerous big college programs from around the country.

The tournament was sponsored by Florida Prospects.com in conjunction with the Eastside basketball program and the Dante Anderson Foundation.

Robert Sumpter, executive director of Florida Prospects.com, told the crowd before the Eastside game that he started the tournament in 2007 because Anderson "was a very special kid for Eastside and the whole Gainesville community."

He also recognized Anderson's parents, Dewitt Anderson and Sheila Baker-Bell. Baker-Bell also addressed the crowd, speaking primarily to the young people in the packed gym about the importance of being obedient.

The game began with the Rams jumping out to an early 8-2 lead behind a balanced scoring attack with baskets from seniors Rodney Mills and Raheem Watkins, sophomore Austin Graham and freshman Barry Johnson.

The Rams (7-4) got 17 points from Mills and 13 from Johnson, who dominated around the basket and dished out some nice assists.

After the Rams went up 8-2, Agape called timeout to gather themselves. They hit a three-pointer after the timeout to cut the lead to 8-5, and the teams traded baskets during the next few possessions to make the score 10-7.

The Rams then went on an 11-2 run to extend their lead to 21-10 early in the second quarter.

Agape then went on a 13-5 run of its own to come within two points of the Rams at 25-23 near the end of the second quarter.

That would be the closest Agape got to Eastside the rest of the game as Eastside coach Herman "Pop" Williams wore Agape down by using numerous players off his bench.

The Rams went on a 7-1 run to end the first half before going on a 7-1 run to open up the third quarter to take a commanding 42-25 lead.

Williams said his team rose up to the challenge of the occasion.

"This one was for Dante," said Williams. "A lot of these kids were in seventh and eighth grade when he was playing, and they knew about him. I told them if nothing else, they needed to go out there and get a win tonight, and I thought they played real well. I'm proud of them."

The Rams will now focus on playing city rivals and finishing their District 5-4A schedule before the district tournament Feb. 8-12 at Ocala Vanguard.

The highlights of the Rams' remaining schedule include games against Gainesville High School at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 21 and again on Feb. 4 at Santa Fe College.

Their remaining home district games will take place at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 25 against Vanguard and at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 28 against Leesburg.

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