McDOUNOUGH -- Eastside sophomore Anthony Henderson was red hot in the Eagles' opening round of the boys Region 4-AAA tournament on Tuesday, hitting eight 3-pointers and scoring 28 points in Eastside's 58-49 win over Stockbridge.
"You have to credit Treyvon Francis and Ben Miller for finding him. They made sure they got the ball to him," said Eastside head coach Gregory Freeman. "Our offense is predicated for our perimeter guys to score. He was open and took advantage of it."
Henderson was equally impressive in both halves of the game, scoring 14 points and sinking four treys each half.
Besides finding the open player and controlling the offense, Miller had 10 points against the Tigers, with eight coming in the first half.
After taking an 11-point 17-6, lead in the first quarter, the Eagles began playing a little too conservatively midway through the second period, allowing Stockbridge to keep the score close. The same thing happened for most of the third frame and in the early part of the fourth, forcing Freeman to call several timeouts.
Even though the Eagles struggled offensively, their defense kept Stockbridge from closing the score with timely rebounds and forced turnovers.
"That's understanding and knowing situations. You don't paint yourself into a corner. You're aggressive but you're aggressively smart," Freeman said. "I can't say enough about Chives Williams. They kept him off the all-region team but if you watch the game, you know who anchors us defensively. Intangibles mean just as much as the 28 points Anthony scored."
In the second half, Eastside outrebounded Stockbridge 17 to 9 while forcing the Tigers to turn the ball over three more times, eight to five, than the Eagles did. The other major factor was 3-point shooting in the second half. While Eastside was 5-for-5 from beyond the arc, the Tigers only made one in four attempts.
"It was a total team effort. It's that the guys believe in themselves now. It's very evident by the way they play. We're in a region with two of the top 10 teams in the state. We're right there and we're not going away. We're the elephant in the room that nobody's taking about," Freeman said. "I'm very proud of these guys. I don't think anybody in Newton County gave us a snowball's chance of having a winning season or making the state playoffs."
The Eagles advanced to the semifinals and are guaranteed to a spot in the Class AAA playoffs with the win. Eastside will be back in action at 5:30 p.m. on Friday at Eagle's Landing against the winner of the PrepCountry/GACA Class AAA No. 5 ranked Drew/Spalding game.
"They're still hungry because that's what I've instilled in them. It's taken a while for them to understand that every time they jump a hurdle you get ready to jump the next one. Right now we're focused on who we have to play Friday," Freeman said. "This was our first goal; our second goal is to win the region. That's what we're going for."