Eastside (Gainesville) boys’ hoops extend winning streak, eye postseason berth
By Olivia Granaiola
The Eastside boys’ basketball team rolled all over Williston in a 55-13 win on Tuesday night, improving the Rams to 17-4 overall and extending their winning streak to five games.
Senior center Keanis Smart came off the bench and led all scoring with nine points. But, Smart was hardly a hero.
Ten other Rams made it on the board throughout the night, showcasing the group’s team-first mentality and depth. And with only five more games left in the regular season, the rowdy Rams are well on their way to a post-season berth.
On January 19th, Eastside pulled an upset and handed city rival Gainesville High School its biggest loss of the season, outscoring the Hurricanes 73-53. Making the feat even more impressive was the fact that the Rams were without two starters – junior Anthony Wright (ACL) and junior James Pope, who has since returned from injury.
Coach Pop Williams says the win over GHS gave his entire team an extra confidence boost, but he was especially proud of his seniors who had never come out on top against the ‘Canes.
Since then, the Rams have built on their momentum.
However, the win streak was in jeopardy when Eastside hosted district rival P.K. Yonge on January 27. In fact, Eastside entered the game losers of three in a row to their other city rival.
The Blue Wave came back from a double-digit deficit and took the lead a few times in the fourth quarter.
But, the Rams have a knack for finishing games, and despite struggling from the free throw line in the third quarter and making just 1-of-8 from the line, they shot 10-of-13 in the fourth quarter to pull out the victory.
Senior Jimmy Johnson, who leads the team in scoring at almost 12 points per game, was 7-of-8 from the line in the final quarter.
Coach Williams says his team has “consistent scoring, but need to clean up if they want to go far in the postseason.”
When asked about the postseason though, Williams says his team “can’t look ahead and can’t take their record to heart.”
The 17-4 record ranks the Rams 6th in the state in Class 6A and 50th overall according to MaxPreps.
Next up, Eastside will kick off February with a home game against Dunnellon in the Class 6A-District 6 finale. When these two teams met earlier in the season, the Rams took a narrow win, with a final score of 42-40.
A win would put the Rams in a tie for first place in the district with North Marion, who they split against this season. If the two teams tie, a coin toss will decide which team will earn the No. 1 seed for the upcoming district tournament to be held at North Marion in two weeks.
The winner of the district tournament will host a first-round state playoff game on Thursday, Feb. 22, while the loser will be on the road.