EAST JACKSON didn’t have a great night at the free throw line but knocked them down when it counted.
The Eagles (3-6, 0-2) hit four big free throws down the stretch in a come-from-behind 64-62 win over Hebron Christian Academy Tuesday. Casey Reed tied the contest at 61 with a free throw at the 2:21 mark, while John Heu broke the tie with a pair of free throws with 13 seconds left. Reed added another free throw with 12 seconds left.
“I don’t know what we were on the night,” coach Brian Turner said immediately after the game. “I know it wasn’t very good. But John stepped up there and made two big ones. Casey Reed hit a couple.”
The win avenged a 56-42 loss to Hebron in the Eagles Nov. 22 season opener.
Despite the late foul-line conversions, East Jackson shot just 14-of-29 from the charity stripe on the night.
The Eagles, which trailed by 12 at halftime, spread out their offense evenly with four players in double figures — Reed (13), Jarron Davis (13), Heu (11) and Jake Grindle (10). Nathan Crumley knocked down three big three-pointers in the fourth quarter and finished with nine points.
East Jackson rallied from a 34-22 halftime deficit after getting out-scored 17-2 in the final 6:25 of the second quarter.
“They fought hard and they battled back,” Turner said. “We just challenged them at half time to attack, keep attacking … The second half, we started attacking the gaps.”
As the offense opened up in the third and fourth quarters, Grindle, Hue and Crumley all had big second halves.
“Really all of them got involved,” Turner said. “Hopefully one day that’s going to click in their heads.”
Prior to Tuesday’s win, the squad fell to Oglethorpe County 69-66 Friday on the road in its most recent subregion game. The Eagles led 32-27 at the half but was outscored 23-12 in a perplexing third period for the team.
“We just had a bad spurt and gave up some easy baskets,” Turner said.
Grindle led East Jackson with a season-high 17 points, shooting 13-of-16 from the line. Trent Dowdy added 16 points, also a season high for him. Crumley finished with 11.
Turner said it afforded Oglethorpe County too many second-chance points.
“I don’t think our defense or boxing out was that good,” Turner said.
Shot selection was another issue when East Jackson got behind. Turner said his team responded with some ill-advised shots.
“We acted like we were down by 30 points with some of the shots we were taking,” Turner said. “We didn’t get good, quality shots.”
Conversely, when East Jackson settled back into its offense, it made up ground. East Jackson rallied from 10 down with five minutes left to cut Oglethorpe County’s lead to three. The Eagles had a chance to tie the game at the buzzer when a three-point attempt from Nathan Crumley hit of the back of the rim.
“When we take good shots, we’re not a bad team,” Turner said. “We’re not good enough make just one or two passes and then jack up a three.”