Palatka girls power through Eastside
Published: Friday, February 1, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, February 2, 2013 at 12:24 a.m.
With a state playoff berth already secured, the Eastside girls basketball team was looking to capture their first district title since 2009 on their home court.
Problem was the Rams simply didn't have enough offense Friday to take it from No. 3 Palatka.
Senior guard Tiara Lundy scored half of her team's points, but the Panthers countered with Desa'rai Shaw's game-high 17 and Palatka held off Eastside, 35-30, in the District 6-5A tournament final.
It was the lowest point total this season for the Panthers (23-2), but it was enough to top the Rams (12-11) and clinch home-court advantage in the first round of next week's regional quarterfinals.
Lundy, one of the area's top scorers, finished with 15 points but was stymied by foul trouble. She was on the bench for part of the third period and the beginning of the fourth with four fouls.
“When she gets in foul trouble, it hurts our offense,” said Eastside first-year coach Lance Radford. “It starts with her. We could never make a run on the offensive end. Our effort defensively was really good. We held them to 35 points, and points inside were hard to come by.”
The pace was certainly what the Rams wanted, but Lundy was pretty much their only offense in the first half, scoring 11 of the team's 15 points and all seven points in the second period. Yet Eastside trailed only 19-15.
But slowly the Panthers started building on that lead, up by five after three periods (27-22) and had their largest lead when Shaw hit a pair of free throws for a 32-23 advantage midway in the fourth.
“Winning the district is really special because it is that hurdle before the state playoffs,” said Palatka coach Jason Shaw, Desa'rai's father. “We are very proud to get this win. To play at Eastside, we knew it would be difficult. This is the first hurdle of many ahead of us.”
Neither team did well at the free throw line, with Eastside hitting just 9 of 18 and Palatka converting 9 of 23.
The teams advance to Thursday's regional quarterfinals, with Eastside going to Jacksonville Creekside (10-12), a surprising 54-53 winner over top-seed St. Johns Bartram Trail in the District 5 final.
All playoff games start at 7 p.m.
“The nice thing about it is that we are in control,” Radford said. “You lose and you are done. I know the girls don't want to quit right now and they don't want it to be over yet.
“They feel they are talented enough to make a run.”