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Quickness key for Eagles in new region

COVINGTON - Having already played three games, the height-challenged Eastside boys basketball team will have to use what it has to outscore its opponents this season.

"You deal with what you have," Eastside coach Michael Gerald said. "Height will come into play at some point in time, but we feel like we can put a game plan together that can offset it. Hopefully, speed and quickness and precision passing will help us against teams that are bigger. We want to compete in every game and improve on a game-to-game basis. I want us to be in the best possible position to get to the state (playoffs) and have a shot at winning the region championship."

Before the Eagles (1-2) can think of winning a Region 8-AAA championship, they will have to beat Hart County, which made it to the semifinals last year. The other top teams in the region include Franklin County and Elbert County.

"They're considered by everybody in the region to be the top three. Everyone else is vying for that fourth position, from what people are saying," Gerald said. "I'm not buying that. I think everyone will have a chance when it counts."

Normally, Eastside features a senior-laden roster, but this year is different.

Of the 14 players, six are seniors, including Neal Latimore, Rashad Hill, Cameron Robinson and Dominique Hubert, who all return from last season.

Shadarrian Smith and Dominique Wright are the other senior members with junior Quay Maddox being the other returning starter.

"They're going to have to really step up," Gerald said. "Those guys have been in the program two, three years and it's their turn. We're going to ask them to do a lot of things for us and hopefully they'll be able to step up to the challenge."

Of the other players on the roster, juniors Zach Johnston and Kyle Coleman, along with sophomore Eric Shy, are going to be called on to contribute from the bench.

"We have kids that can put the ball in the basket. We're not going to base our wins and losses on one or two people giving us a lot of outside shooting," Gerald said. "I think with the addition of some of the new people that we're just to get the new guys in and see what they're able to bring to the table and go from there."

While some may think Eastside has a slight advantage moving down from Class AAAA, Gerald said he knows better.

"I was here when we were in this region several years ago. I don't get caught up in that Class AAAA, Class AAA deal. I just feel like basketball is basketball," he said. "Those teams have always been near the top of the region. I just know we're going to get a great brand of basketball, and you'll have to be at the top of your game night in and night out."

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

SideBar: At a glance

Team: Eastside boys basketball

Coach: Michael Gerald (fifth season)

Last year: 12-13

Key returning players: Neal Latimore, Rashad Hill, Cameron Robinson, Dominique Hubert and Quay Maddox

Next game: Saturday at home vs. McIntosh at 6 p.m.