COVINGTON - Eastside's boys basketball team finds itself in a situation it has not been in for quite a few years - winning early in the season.
The Eagles started the 2007-08 season with not only a win, they started by winning the Pope tournament with a 3-0 record.
They started with a 49-46 win over Brookwood followed by a 66-62 overtime victory over Chapel Hill last Tuesday before closing the tournament with a 57-53 win over North Springs on Saturday to win it all.
"We felt like all the work those young men have put in is paying off for them," Eastside coach Michael Gerald said. "They still have a lot of work to do but their attitudes and work habits have changed. I hope that we're a little bit more mature than we were last year. I'm just pleased to have gotten off to the type of start that we have."
Another thing that made these wins good was the margin of victory.
"It's obviously good that we're able to pull off the close games. Last year, we somehow found a way not to win those games," Gerald said. "I guess early on it's pleasing."
Artis Clanton led the Eagles in scoring with 53 points for the three-day tournament, followed by a 40-point performance by Cameron Robinson and 25 points by Neil Latimore.
"I think that any person that steps out on the floor understands that we put them in positions where they could use their talents. We don't have one person getting the bulk of the attempts," Gerald said. "I think that they're buying into that, and they feel more comfortable and believe that I trust that they'll make the right decisions."
While opposing coaches always complimented Gerald on his team's ability to play defense last season, he never saw it. However, he feels that his team's defensive abilities made them winners to open the season. But offensively, they still need to find themselves.
"I thought defensively the guys played extremely hard. I think that was probably the difference in us winning those three games. That's something we've really honed in on and preached the entire preseason," Gerald said. "We still have to get a little more continuity on offense. We're not going to take a lot of (3-pointers) like we've done in the past."
The Eastside Eagles will try to make it four in a row on their home court when they play county-rival Newton at 6 p.m. Saturday with the girls game starting at 4:30.
Manny Fils can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.