Coach stands behind Rams


Eastside's Tim Norman, center, shoots the ball around the Gainesville High School defenders during last Friday's game held in the Santa Fe College gym in Gainesville. The Purple Hurricanes beat the Rams 73-53.

BRAD McCLENNY/Special to the Guardian
Published: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 1:36 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 1:36 p.m.

The final score of the Eastside boys basketball game against city rival Gainesville High School might have been lopsided, but it wasn't discouraging to Eastside coach Pop Williams.

Facts

RAMS GAME

What: Eastside High School vs. North Marion High School.
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
Where: Eastside High School, 1201 SE 45th Terrace.
Cost: $5.
Information: Call 352-955-6704.

Although the Rams lost the game 73-53, Williams said it was a lot closer than that, and though he doesn't believe in making excuses, Williams said the final score was more indicative of the fact his team doesn't have the depth it has normally had in the past.

"We are about two to three subs short, and to me, that was the difference in the game," Williams said. "He (GHS coach Kelly Beckham) wore us down with his subbing. Our players got tired, but I am proud of the way we competed. We never gave up."

Williams also said the Rams played without starting center Mike Harris, who is out with a shoulder injury suffered on Jan. 16 against P.K. Yonge.

The Rams (6-12 before Tuesday's night game against Belleview) will host North Marion at 7:30 p.m. Thursday to conclude its play this season in District 6-5A. The team will get another chance against GHS at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 1 and will finish the regular season at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 2 (Senior Night) against Union County.

The Rams will compete in the District 6-5A tournament Feb. 5-8 at Palatka High School.

The Rams exhibited a lot of heart against the Purple Hurricanes after falling behind by eight points, 14-6, to end the first quarter. After GHS opened the second quarter with a 7-2 run to take a 21-8 lead, the Rams stormed back to eventually go into halftime down by one point, 25-24. They played evenly with the Purple Hurricanes in the third, and though it was clear GHS had more players, the Rams were only down 44-42 going into the fourth quarter.

That's when the superior depth of GHS (11-7) began to pay dividends, as the Purple Hurricanes went on an 11-4 run early in the final period and never looked back. GHS was led by junior Isaiah Jackson, 19 points, and Eastside was led by senior guard Sir Jackson, 24 points.

The Rams didn't help themselves much in the game by shooting very poorly. They hit just 12-of-23 free throws and only 5-of-33 three-pointers.

"We also didn't rebound well," Williams said.

The Rams are playing through their first losing season in a very long time, but Williams said his players are very upbeat. He said he loves coaching his players and he understands that losing comes sometimes if you stick around long enough. The Rams have consistently made it to the state playoffs in the 17 years Williams has been at the helm of the program. The team won the Class 5A championship in 2006, the only one in school history.

"I am not giving up on my kids and we are going to work harder," Williams said. "You can't win at a high level every year. I have real good kids and I have a bunch of kids who love the game."

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