Free throws boost Rams

Team faces Dunnellon Thursday in regional quarterfinal

Published: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:04 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:04 p.m.

Barry Johnson calmly sank free throw after free throw against Lake Weir High School in overtime to lead the Eastside High School boys basketball team to the 2014 FHSAA District 5-5A tournament championship last Friday night at North Marion High School.

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Eastside’s Seth Brown (33) tries to take the ball away from Lake Weir’s Eric Williams (2) during the 5A-5 district championship.

BRUCE ACKERMAN/Special to the Guardian



* What: Eastside High School vs. Dunnellon High School.

* When: 7 p.m. Thursday.

* Where: Eastside High School, 1201 SE 45th Terrace.

* Cost: $7.

* Information: Call 352-955-6704.

The Rams, who lost to Lake Weir twice during the regular season, beat the Hurricanes 64-58 in the district championship game to host the FHSAA regional quarterfinal game against Dunnellon at 7 p.m. Thursday at Eastside.

The Rams (21-6) led 42-32 with 1:09 left in the third period and went into the fourth period with a 44-35 lead. Lake Weir (16-9) began the fourth period with a 6-0 run to make the score 44-41 to keep the game close until the end of regulation.

Johnson hit two free throws for Eastside to make the score 50-47 with 24.4 seconds left in the game to seemingly assure the Rams the victory in regulation, but Lake Weir hit a three-pointer to tie the game at 50, thus forcing the overtime period after outscoring the Rams 15-6 in the fourth period.

Eastside junior guard Darrius Norman opened the overtime period with a basket to make the score 52-50 before Johnson went to work down low.

After Lake Weir tied the game at 52, Johnson scored down low and was fouled, giving the Rams a 55-52 lead after making the free throw. Lake Weir scored again to make the score 55-54, but Johnson scored again down low while being fouled again to make the score 58-54 after making the free throw with 2:16 to play.

The teams basically traded baskets after that and the Rams pulled out the victory.

Eastside coach Pop Williams said Johnson is a big-game player who stays calm in all situations.

"Barry was here the last time we won the district (2012), and he knows how valuable free throws are, and that's what I've been telling them that free throws are the most important part of the playoffs, especially in district games," Williams said.

Johnson and senior Seth Brown said the district championship means a lot to them.

"This is a big win for us because we were underdogs coming into the game and coach Pop just told us that we had to come out ready to play, box out on defense and all that," Johnson said.

Brown said the difference in overtime was the way the Rams played as a team.

"It was all about execution in overtime, when we started back-playing our game and making them work," Brown said.

Williams said it was frustrating losing the lead in the fourth quarter, but he said he told his team to buckle down in overtime.

"I told them that once we get the lead, we were going to have to execute, and we did a good job of executing and getting to the line," Williams said. "They started calling it pretty tight at the end, and I told our players that it was going to be about the free throws."

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