Antonia Pittman

Antonia Pittman drives on the baseline during a recent East Jackson girls basketball game.

East Jackson’s “second season” began in triumphant fashion Friday (Jan. 7) against Oconee County.

The No. 7 ranked Eagles won a barnburner against the No. 8 ranked Warriors 53-49. East Jackson has now won 13-straight games, adding to its already impressive school record.

“It was a great win for us,” said head coach Matt Allen. “Trying to keep it in perspective, it’s just the first of what I think are going to be several really competitive region games. We have a long way to go.

“It was a great way to start region play, beating a quality opponent. Overall, I think we competed possession-by-possession. This is a really big win for us to start it out.

East Jackson (13-1, 1-0 Region 8-AAA) took an early 8-7 lead before getting hot in the second quarter to take a 23-16 advantage into the locker room.

Oconee County, being the No. 8 team in Class AAA wasn’t going away that easily. The Warriors field a deeper lineup and wore out the Eagles in the second half. By the end of the third quarter, East Jackson trailed 34-33.

“Oconee has some matchup problems that gave us a hard time,” Allen said. “I think we defended them really well. We had some defensive lapses in the third quarter and into the fourth quarter we got a little tired. They run a little bit deeper than we do with their rotations.”

The difference defensively was Destiny Rakestraw and Yasmine Clark’s coverage of Oconee County’s guards and shooters. The two kept explosive plays to a minimum and allowed the Eagles to stay in the game late. Though Allen also included Annika Sorrow’s defense of the Warriors’ wing players in the spotlight.

Offensively, Antonia Pittman closed out the game with a string of three-pointers and free throws to propel the Eagles back into the lead. Pittman finished the night with 22 points. Alani David, who finished with seven points, drained a pair of free throws in the closing minutes to help preserve the 53-49 win.

Haven Rollins also scored in double figures. She reached 12 points and added six rebounds.

“Our defense on the ball was outstanding all night,” he said. “We were also able to neutralize their post players just by playing straight-up and making them score over us. I thought defensively we did a good job getting stops when we had to.”

Region play doesn’t get any easier for East Jackson. The Eagles flock to Hart County (9-7, 1-0 Region 8-AAA) this Friday (Jan. 14). The Bulldogs beat Monroe Area in their region opener 67-49 last Friday and always field an athletic and skilled basketball squad.

“I keep saying this region is really competitive top-to-bottom,” he said. “It’s our first road region game, we’ll be playing in a hostile environment. I think our schedule has certainly prepared us for that as far as going into playoff-type atmospheres.”

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