Eastside readies for Gainesville
Eagles, Red Elephants face off Friday at 8:30

COVINGTON - The Eastside's boys basketball team will have to look past the hostile crowd in the hope of advancing in the playoffs.

They have to focus on the job at hand, beating the AP Class AAA No. 10 Gainesville Red Elephants at home.

"I used to coach in that region and that school is a tough place to play. They have their fans and they do a great job of supporting their team. Our kids are going to have to keep their composure and stay focused on what we're trying to do," Eastside coach Michael Gerald said.

"They haven't lost any games at home all season. That's going to be a challenge to go in there."

The game, which starts at 8:30 p.m. on Friday, will be a true test for the Eagles as they must find a way to hit their outside shots and loosen up Gainesville's zone defense if they want to soften up the inside enough.

"We're not going to be bothered by people playing us in the zone. We've seen enough of it throughout the year. That's why we need to make some outside shots," Gerald said. "If you can't make those shots and they're scoring it's just going to make it a difficult situation in terms of trying to pull off a victory on somebody else's court.

"Either way, man or zone, it's not going to change what we do. We're going to keep doing what we do and if we make enough shots, whatever they're doing we'll counter it. We're going to have to come in with the right attitude."

If the Eagles are to have a chance, they will have to control the glass on both sides of the court.

One thing that makes the Red Elephants as good as they are is not their size or their shot-making ability, but their athletic ability to go after the ball.

"Defensively, we've got to play a solid game. We've got to box out and rebound the basketball and not give them a lot of second- and third-chance opportunities. They're athletic and opportunistic. They can rebound the basketball very well and they attack that glass. I don't see that they have great shooting or anything like that," Gerald said.

If Neal Latimore, Cameron Robinson and a few others can make their outside shots, Gerald is hoping that Jhastin Thomas will be able to create some baskets and control the glass under the basket.

The other thing the Eagles have to do on the floor is put the region playoffs behind them and concentrate on the present.

After beating Oconee County in the quarterfinals to make it to the state playoffs, the Eagles lost their last two games giving them the Region 8-AAA No. 4 seed.

"The main thing is that we're pleased that we're still playing. I like where we are. We're in a good bracket. We've got to take it one game at a time and see if we can win," Gerald said. "After that game, if we're successful, we'll try to work on whatever we need to work on to win the next game. You just want to be in and we're in. Now we'll do whatever we have to do to stick around for as long as we possibly can."

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