East Jackson County skyrocketed above Jackson County, 49-28, to claim a two-game sweep this season of its crosstown rival.
The win at the Panthers’ home gym Friday arrived despite JCCHS’ strong defensive effort to open the first half, which ended with the Eagles down 14-16.
The outcome was not what either side expected on JCCHS’ Senior Night and the regular season finale for both teams.
The Panthers (4-20, 1-13 in 8-AAA) were gunning for a complete performance but settled for a first-rate opening period defensively.
East Jackson (11-14, 6-8 in 8-AAA), meanwhile, took advantage of every opportunity in the second half, moving quickly ahead of the Panthers for good in the opening minutes of the third period and outscoring JCCHS 35-12 in the final two quarters.
“It was a rough start offensively as we had a hard time scoring with only three points in the first quarter. Then to add to our rough start (Nathan) Crumley and (Casey) Reed spent much of the second quarter on the bench in foul trouble,” Eagle coach Brian Turner said. “However, our defense and our bench really came through for us and kept us in the game. In the second half we finally found our offense and pulled away for the victory.”
Jarron Davis led EJCHS with a game-high 19 points, including four 3-pointers. Mac Moore followed him with nine points.
Even with the lopsided finish, the large home and visiting crowds kept the atmosphere charged for much of the game.
“It was a great night and I thought it was great as Jackson County also recognized our seniors as well as theirs, showing that we may be separate schools and compete against each other but we’re all part of the entire system,” Turner said. “Thank-you goes out to their coaches and administration. I felt it was a real touch of class.”
Both teams enter this week’s region 8-AAA tournament as underdogs.
No. 6 East Jackson was to play no. 3 Franklin County 6 p.m. Wednesday at Elbert County High School.
The Eagles planned to ride the momentum developed from the win over Jackson County last week as well as the team it was to play in the first round.
Last Tuesday, EJCHS beat Franklin County 65-57, negating a stinging 61-32 loss to the Lions earlier in the season.
“It was a great win and a total team effort,” Turner said of the Franklin win last week. “I felt it was probably our best effort and most complete game of the season.”
In that game, Reed led the team with 20 points, followed by Davis (14), Tyree Rakestraw (12) and Nathan Crumley (11).
The Eagles took the lead in the second quarter, outscoring Franklin 18-9 during that time. EJCHS then punished the Lions at the free-throw line in the fourth-quarter, converting 14 of 17 attempts, to finish out the victory.
Should EJCHS win Wednesday, the team’s second round games would happen Thursday at East Jackson.
The Eagles would play the winner of Oconee and Elbert County at 5:30 p.m.
The region championship game is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. (The girls’ tournament championship is slated for 7 p.m.)
“The tournament is all about momentum,” Turner said. “Hopefully, we will carry this into next week and make some noise.”
Last Friday, the Lady Eagles fell to the Panthers 43-32 to close their regular season.
“I thought the game was hard fought, typical of a rivalry game where buckets were hard to come by,” added East Jackson head coach Matt Gibbs. “In regards to our season, the girls showed a lot of grit and determination continuously battling amidst adversity. I think we improved and laid the groundwork for the continuous growth of the program with the juniors and sophomores maturing through game experience. I look forward to continuing to build on this foundation with these young ladies and wish the best to our seniors who contributed to this development.”
Senior Kelsey Palette led scoring with 14 points.
The Lady Eagles were eliminated from the region tournament on Tuesday, as they fell to North Oconee 51-35.