The East Jackson girls’ basketball team led rival Jackson County for most of the first half, yet found itself trailing at halftime. The Eagles (5-11, 2-3) made sure they were on the right side of the scoreboard in the second half.
Down 26-25 at the break, East Jackson reeled off a 10-1 run to start the third quarter and never trailed again in a 57-50 win Friday over the rival Panthers on the road. This was only the program’s second win over Jackson County in its 11-year history.
“I’m proud of how resilient we were more than anything,” East Jackson coach Donnie Byrom said. “We outplayed them the whole first half … and I think they go on a 7-0 run and we go into the half down one. And then we spend the whole second half building that lead again.”
Byrom said his team hasn’t always played well when facing adversity, but did on this night.
“When you outplay someone, and yet they take the lead, that’s tough to handle,” he said. “The girls handled that better.”
Freshman Haven Rollins stood out again for the Eagles, sparking the victory with a career-high 25 points.
“Haven is an offensive threat on any given night,” Byrom said. “Against a rivalry team, she really wanted to play well. You could tell before the game she was excited to be here, and we have a lot of faith in Haven.”
Maurissa Thomas added 14 points, and Kenzie Whitehead contributed 11 points.
Carson Anderson led Jackson County (4-11, 0-5) with 17 points, including a bank-in 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Panthers their one-point half-time lead. East Jackson had led 14-8 after a quarter — despite missing eight free throws — and 17-11 in the second quarter before the Panthers outscored the Eagles 15-8 in the final 6:37 of the period.
But Rollins scored immediately to open the second half and ignite the Eagles’ key run in the third quarter, which also included a 3-pointer from Rollins and a traditional 3-point play from Thomas.
Jackson County threatened late when Naomi Sims cut the Eagles’ lead to 50-48 with 2:10 but she missed a lay-up with 1:09 left that would have tied the game.
East Jackson closed the game on a 7-2 run as it played the last 1:57 without Thomas. She exited the game with cramps, leaving the team without a post player.
“They really executed very well,” Byrom said. “That’s something a month ago we would have caved on. We lost a couple of games in those situations when we weren’t resilient. So, on the road, rivalry game, being resilient, those are all growing up moments for these girls.”
The Eagles showed their mettle with their second win in three games despite being drastically short on depth. The team recently lost starters Jewellee Love and Natalie Vargo to injuries, leaving the program with just eight players. It also has no junior varsity program this year to develop its underclassmen.
“I’m very proud of them for their efforts,” Byrom said. “We’re just going to go back to work next week.”
East Jackson will take on Monroe Area Tuesday at home at 6 p.m.