East Jackson rallied from 13 points down Tuesday against Oconee County on the road but couldn’t complete the second-half comeback in a 49-45 loss.
“We battled,” coach Brian Turner said. “We battled hard. Again, some young mistakes.”
East Jackson (1-4) tied the game at 45 with 44 seconds left but then caught a tough break when it was whistled for a foul on the Warriors’ subsequent possession as the Eagles attempted full court pressure.
Oconee County then sank four free throws in the final 40 seconds to clinch the win.
Nathan Crumley hit three three-pointers led East Jackson with 13 points, but he was the only Eagle in double figures.
East Jackson trailed 32-19 with 6:13 left in the third but the Eagles scored the last 10 points of the period, setting up the dramatic fourth quarter.
Turner said he was pleased with his team’s defensive effort and pressure in the second half, which helped spark the rally.
“Give the kids credit,” Turner said. “They battled back. We pressured them and got some steals and got some turnover and got back in it. We’ve just got to make our open shots. That’s just not falling for us right now.”
Next up for East Jackson is its subregion opener Friday with Hart County.
“I don’t know a whole lot about them,” Turner said. “I know they’ll be athletic and very physical.”
Prior to the Oconee County game, East Jackson lost is inaugural match-up with nearby rival Commerce, 63-51, Saturday on the road.
The Eagles led 40-31 after three quarters but were outscored 32-11 in the final period in a battle between schools separated by just four miles. Commerce’s Thomas McMillen, who had been contained for most of the game, scored its last 11 points.
“Give them credit,” Turner said. “They’ve got a good player.”
Turner said his team didn’t challenge Commerce’s zone effectively and settled for too many shots. Just the night before, East Jackson enjoyed much success against Banks County’s zone the night before.
“It was almost a reversal of fortunes,” Turner said.
The Eagles’ lone bright spot from the outside was Jarron Davis, who led East Jackson with 20 points, including five three’s. East Jackson, however, lacked another outside scoring threat.
“We need a couple of kids to put the ball in from the outside,” Turner said.
Turner said he felt his team also got a little tired as Commerce overtook the Eagles in the final period. He said he should have perhaps gone deeper into his lineup. “I didn’t do a good job of using our bench against Commerce,” Turner said.
A night earlier, East Jackson overcame a tenuous first half for a come-from-behind 66-58 win over Banks County.
East Jackson trailed Banks County 37-18 at the break.
“Needless to say, it was a struggle,” Turner said.
The Eagles closed the gap to 49-40 at the end of the third quarter and outscored the Leopards 26-9 in the final period. Turner credited the second half surge to solid defensive play and better rebounding. He also said his team handled — attacked, in fact — the zone defense being used by Banks County.
“It was more of an attacking style, taking shots in the flow of the game,” Turner said.
The Eagles hit eight three-pointers in the second half. Davis hit four of them and finished with 16 points. Nathan Crumley hit the other four and finished with 12. East Jackson’s success from the outside opened up opportunities for Jake Grindle in the post, who scored nine of his 13 points in the second half. Casey Reed also finished in double figures with 11.
East Jackson converted just 12-of-30 attempts from the charity stripe, however, and missed its last eight attempts of the game.
“We didn’t finish the game very well,” Turner said.