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Slow start means end to Eastside
Eagles fall in first round

McDONOUGH - The Eastside boys basketball team dug itself a hole it could not get out of Thursday, losing to Forest Park 58-47 in the first round of the Charger Hooptacular at Eagle's Landing Christian Academy

The Eagles found themselves down by 17 points at the end of the first period, trailing 21-4.

"Part of the problem was a layoff. We haven't played in 12 days," Eastside coach Michael Gerald said. "It doesn't matter how much going up and down in practice you do, there's nothing like playing a game."

With the score 3-2 in favor of the Panthers, they methodically began to stop Eastside's offense and defense.

Forest Park jumped out to a 16-2 lead before Eastside's Gabe Mathis dunked the ball. However, the Panthers weren't listening as they scored the final five points of the first quarter.

The Eagles began shaking off some of the cobwebs in the second frame, closing their deficit to 11 points, 24-13, at the half.

"I knew there was going to be some rust," Gerald said. "I don't know of anybody that can be gone for 12 days and come back at the same level you played before you took that break. It's hard to say how you'll play after being off for that period of time."

In a low scoring period, the Eagles were able to hold the explosive Forest Park to a 3-point shot by Lamont Jackson while the Eagles added nine points to their total.

The Panthers tried to reclaim their big lead in the third quarter, extending their advantage to 32-20. However, the Eagles charged back to cut the lead down to 36-31 before Forest Park's Rashad Jones, who led all scorers with 22 points, hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Forest Park stretched its lead back out to 11 before Eastside cut it back down to 49-45 on back-to-back treys by Neal Latimore.

But the Eagles could not get any closer as the Panthers tried to milk the clock, forcing Eastside to foul. The rest of Forest Park's points came from the free throw line as they closed the game making 9 of 10.

"That's been a problem the last four games. We've dug ourselves a hole from the very beginning and we've had to fight and claw your way out of it," Gerald said. "When you dig yourself a hole like that, you have to expend so much energy to get close to being back into the game. I don't know what the answer is."

The Eagles will be back in action at 11:30 a.m. today in the tournament against Stockbridge.

Manny Fils can be reached at manny.fils@newtoncitizen.com.