East Jackson boys’ basketball coach Jarvis Smith couldn’t help but think of how a down-to-the wire loss to Morgan County might have worked out differently.
Jimmie Jackson’s 3-pointer fell short at the buzzer in overtime as the Eagles (6-3, 0-2 Region 8-AAA) fell 63-61 to Morgan County Tuesday (Dec. 10) at home.
East Jackson led late in regulation and in overtime.
“Tough,” Smith said of the loss. “Very tough. Because we had situations that we could have controlled the ball, made an extra pass, made a better decision, called a timeout. It could have been a different outcome.”
But the biggest stat of the night: 22 missed free throws (14-of-36), including six in overtime.
“We can’t beat anybody missing 22 free throws,” Smith said. “It doesn’t matter what happens through the course of a game, so it’s a tough one to swallow.”
East Jackson got 21 points each from Makayl Rakestraw and Jackson, who helped rally the Eagles from a 12-point third-quarter deficit in the losing effort.
“They hit big shots, but we didn’t hit free throws, and those are the bigger ones,” Smith said.
Playing a Morgan County program that has won three state titles in the last six years but was winless so far this year, East Jackson got off to a slow start.
Morgan County, who opened the game with a 14-4 run, built a 25-13 lead midway through the second quarter.
“It was a rough offensive night for us,” Smith said. “We didn’t put the ball in the hole. Credit Morgan’s defense, but we did have clean looks that we didn’t score … We missed four or five layups. Those add up over the course of a game.”
But Kendrick Carson gave the Eagles momentum heading into halftime as he drained a long 3 at the buzzer, cutting the Bulldogs’ lead to 25-20.
The Bulldogs reestablished momentum in the second half with an 11-4 run, but never administered the knockout blow. East Jackson worked the lead down to seven (41-34) after three quarters and made its move in the fourth quarter.
A 3-pointer from Rakestraw put the Eagles ahead 43-41 at the 5:49 mark in the fourth quarter. East Jackson never trailed again in regulation.
But Morgan County forced overtime when Marquavious Wright caught a lob pass and laid in the game-tying bucket with 10 seconds left.
In overtime, back-to-back shots from Rakestraw — a 3-pointer and reverse layup — gave the Eagles a 59-57 lead with 1:42 left, but Ty Butler answered with a deep 3 to push Morgan County ahead again, 60-59.
The Bulldogs then hit just enough free throws in the final minute of overtime to keep themselves in the lead. A free throw from Wright with 5.2 seconds remaining put Morgan County ahead 63-61, and the game ended with Jackson’s miss at the buzzer.
East Jackson returns to the court Friday at home at 8:30 p.m. against No. 5-ranked Hart County
Smith said his team would learn from Tuesday’s loss.
“I don’t look at them as losses, I look at them as lessons,” Smith said. “Every time we get to strap it up, it’s lessons — win, lose or draw. One big lesson: We missed 22 free throws … If we just hit eight of those free throws, maybe we’re not in overtime. Maybe down the stretch we seal the game some type of way. So, it’s a lesson.”