No lack of excitement at Eastside
Eagles, Bulldogs split pair of close games

COVINGTON - Of the minutes played by Eastside's Artis Clanton against Rockdale on Tuesday night, none was bigger than the final one of the game as the Eagles (11-8 overall, 3-2 8-AAAA South) held off Rockdale (10-7, 3-2) for a 38-37 victory.

The Lady Eagles (3-13, 0-5) found out how long 12 minutes can be as they held a 22-14 lead midway through the third quarter only to see the Lady Bulldogs (6-11, 2-3) rally for a 35-33 win.

In the boys game, the Bulldogs trailed 34-25 to start the fourth period, only to tie the game at 37 with one minute left to play.

Darius McKnight made it a two-point game, making the first of two free throws before tying the game after rebounding his missed second attempt and sinking the basket.

With 46 seconds left on the clock, Clanton gave Eastside the lead by hitting one free throw.

Rockdale had two chances to win the game, but Clanton came down with the rebound before the Bulldogs got a third chance.

"I told (Clanton), 'You have to come up with big rebounds.' We count on him to do a lot of stuff for us," Eastside boys coach Michael Gerald said.

Eastside missed a free throw with seven seconds left, but Rockdale was again unable to connect on a possible winning shot.

While it was a close finish, the game did not start that way as Rockdale finished the first half with nine points. But Rockdale not only eliminated its 19-9 deficit to start the second half, they led for a possession.

"We've got to put two halves together when we play team basketball," Rockdale boys coach Mitchell Harris said. "We went from playing with guys with the ball thinking they could do it themselves to guys trusting their team. The guys don't understand that you have to play as a team in order to beat other teams."

Rockdale's Jonathan Gissantaner hit back-to-back 3-pointers to take a 25-23 lead with 3:13 left in the third frame. However, the Eagles were able to answer Rockdale's outside shooting as Clanton made a trey and Neal Latimore sunk two more from beyond the arc to take a 32-25 lead heading to the final quarter.

Gissantaner led all scorers with 20 points, while Latimore, with the help of four 3-pointers, paced the Eagles with 14 points. Cameron Robinson also had 12 points for Eastside.

Rockdale girls 35, Eastside girls 33

The inability to make free throws proved disastrous for the Lady Eagles as they made 33 percent of their shots in the first three quarters, missing on 8 of 12 attempts.

"In almost all the games we've lost, we haven't shot the free throws well," said Eastside coach Jason Grooms. "It's something we have to take advantage of because we have trouble scoring to begin with. I thought turnovers killed us more than anything. We have to learn to take care of the basketball. Some of the turnovers were so unnecessary with no pressure on us. I could understand if there was some pressure, but some of the turnovers, there was no reason for it."

Rockdale also had a tough shooting night, going 0-14 from the field in the first period as they trailed 4-2 after one quarter and 13-10 at the half.

Eastside built its lead to 22-14 before Rockdale, who made 5 of 6 from the free-throw line, came back to lead 26-25 heading into the final period.

Despite not making field goals, the Lady Eagles stayed in the game because of free throws, making 7 of 8 shots.

Eastside's lone field goal, by Shae Burr on a steal, was enough to tie the game at 33 with less than a minute to play.

Rockdale turned the ball over in Eastside's half of the court, but the Lady Eagles were unable to take advantage of the opportunity, missing two shots.

Lauren Stewart gave Rockdale a one-point edge, making one of two from the free throw line.

With 5.3 seconds left to play the Lady Eagles had one chance. But instead of setting up a final shot, they turned the ball over.

Rockdale's Porshia Cleveland hit one shot from the line, giving the Lady Bulldogs the two-point win.

Eastside's Jade Cook and Cleveland each had 10 points to pace their team in scoring.

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