GAINESVILLE - After missing the state tournament for the past two seasons, the Eastside boys' return the big dance this year was a short one as the Eagles fell 66-43 to Gainesville on Friday night.
Gainesville, the champs out of Region 7-AAA, pounded Eastside with a balanced scoring attack. Four players finished in double figures, led by 17 points from George Manomano. Gainesville will play the winner of the Druid Hills-Ridgeland winner in the second round.
"We knew they had a good team and we played well early on," Eastside head coach Michael Gerald said. "We have a couple of guys that we need to shoot and we needed both of them to get going, but we couldn't get them going in the same time."
Neal Latimore got off to a hot start for the Eagles (9-16) with 10 points in the first quarter, including a successful conversion of a four-point play.
However, Latimore was the only Eagle to score in the first quarter as the Red Elephants (17-8) took a 16-10 lead by the end of the period. Blake Sims, who finished with 16 points for Gainesville, led the charge with eight points in the first.
The second quarter was similar to the first for Eastside except that Latimore started to get some help on offense. While Latimore - who finished with 13 for the game - scored just two in the second, Dominique Hubert came off the bench with four points in the second to help keep the Eagles in striking distance at 29-19 by the end of the half.
Eastside's other sharp shooter, Cameron Robinson, got off to a cold start in the first half with just one point but came alive in the third quarter with 12 points.
Once again, though, offensive support was scant as Hubbard, who finished the game with 10 points, was the only other Eagle to score.
With Eastside struggling to find consistency on offense, Gainesville continued to roll as Nick Johnson (10 points on the night) and Manomano each scored seven in the third quarter to extend its lead to 50-33 after three.
Robinson, who finished with 16 points and nine rebounds to lead Eastside, lost the stroke he had in the third quarter and put in just three points in the fourth. That opened the door for Gainesville to put the game away, led by 11 points in the fourth from Juwan Jeffries, who finished with 15 for the game.
"These guys did everything I asked of them this year," Gerald said. "One of our goals was to get back to state and we accomplished that. We're not satisfied with just being here but we put ourselves in the position we wanted to be."