Eastside boys lose district basketball game

Published: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at 1:51 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at 1:51 p.m.

The Eastside High School boys basketball team held its own for one quarter against the much deeper and more experienced Palatka Panthers in the District 6-5A tournament championship game last Friday before losing to the Panthers for the third time this season.

The Rams trailed only 12-7 after the end of the first quarter before Palatka got its offense roaring enroute to a 68-52 win at home against the Rams to capture the district championship.

As a result, the Rams are district runners-up and will play a state regional quarterfinal game at 7 p.m. Thursday at Bartram Trail, the District 5-5A champion, in St. John’s County.

Palatka, ranked No. 5 by MaxPreps.com in Class 5A in the state, will host Creekside of St. John’s County, the District 5-5A runners-up, also at 7 p.m. Thursday. If Eastside and Palatka win, they will meet for the fourth time this season in a regional semifinal game at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Palatka.

Eastside coach Pop Williams said his team is going to have to play better if they are going to have a chance to get past Bartram Trail and play the Panthers again.

“We are going to have to play hard and play smart,” Williams said. “We are going to give them a few days off so they can get some rest. We can’t change anything. The only thing we can do is get a little bit of rest, get some tape on what they (Bartram Trail) do, and go on from there.”

Eastside and Palatka started the district championship game kind of sluggish on offense. The first points of the game were scored at the 5:40 mark when Desmond Chandler scored for Palatka.

Jaquan Strawder then scored for Eastside (12-15) to tie the score at 2 before Chandler made a layup in transition while being fouled. He made the free throw and the Panthers led 5-2. Eastside scored five more points the rest of the quarter off another basket by senior guard Sir Jackson and a three-pointer by senior guard Tim Norman.

The second quarter began with Palatka (23-4) executing its offense much better than it did in the first quarter, and the Rams found themselves trailing the Panthers 20-9. The score at halftime was 28-16, but the Rams battled back to come within eight points at 35-27 when Thomas Lundy sank a three-pointer with 4:51 left to play in the third quarter. The quarter ended with Palatka ahead 46-33. The Panthers never looked back and enjoyed a 21-point lead at one point in the fourth quarter when the score was 56-35.

Williams said if the Rams meet the Panthers again, he will have to have his team better prepared.

“It’s going to take a different plan than what we brought in here tonight,” Williams said. “We are going to have to change up some things and play them a little tougher.”

Williams said the biggest difference in the two teams is experience.

“Those guys have played together for a long time, and I don’t care who you are, you are not going to beat a group of kids with a whole bunch of experience with a group of kids who don’t have experience,” he said.

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