This is what first-year East Jackson girls’ basketball coach Charrelle Pullen had been envisioning in wanting her team to ride a wave of defense.
The Eagles (1-0) generated 41 turnovers — 31 of them off steals — against Oglethorpe County and buried the Patriots with points in transition in a 69-23 home win Tuesday in Pullen’s head-coaching debut.
“That is exactly what I wanted to see,” Pullen said. “Like I said, let our defense create our offense, definitely put pressure on their guards and allow them to create their own turnovers. That instills confidence with us, so once we do get into an offensive set, we can slow down and run the play how we need to.”
The Eagles’ freshmen tandem of Antonia Pittman and Destiny Rakestraw accounted for over two-thirds of East Jackson’s offense with Pittman scoring 25 points and Rakestraw adding 22 in their high school debuts.
“They’re both extremely hard workers,” said Pullen, who started four freshmen. “And not only them. My freshman class is hungry. I have really good, disciplined freshmen who want it. But yes, in general, those two played aggressive defense, pushed the ball up the floor, looked for one another and looked for the entire team. They didn’t play selfish ball, even though they put those numbers up. I’m excited about those two.”
Jewellee Love added 12 points.
East Jackson dominated the opener despite missing its top two scorers from last year — Haven Rollins and Kenzie Whitehead. Both are still with the competition cheerleading squad which is headed to the state meet this weekend.
“It definitely makes me excited to know that those two can come in and fit right in and add more to what we’re trying to do,” Pullen said. “But it also allows them to see that you’ve got to earn a spot. Even what you did last year, you’ve still got to earn a spot. All in all, it’s a good feeling to know that we’ve still got those two in our back pocket.”
The Eagles trailed for the first four minutes of Tuesday’s game until Rakestraw drained a 3-pointer to give East Jackson a 7-6 lead. That ignited a 22-3 run that included three baskets each from Pittman and Rakestraw and a transition 3 from Love. Rakestraw capped the big run with a free throw at 5:15 mark in the second quarter, putting the Eagles ahead 26-9.
The rout was on from there.
East Jackson took a 38-14 lead at halftime after a fast-break layup from Rakestraw off a feed from Pittman in the closing seconds.
The Eagles ended the third quarter with a pair of baskets from Rakestraw to open up a 51-16 lead. East Jackson pushed the lead up over 40 points in the fourth quarter as Pittman and Rakestraw combined for 12 of the team’s 18 points in the final period.
Pullen said earning her first career win was exciting.
“Everything is exciting,” she said. “But I’m definitely humbled by it and can definitely use this as a tool to build on and not get comfortable and complacent and realize that, hey, we turn around and play another game on Friday. I’ll allow them to soak it in, and then put in the work again Thursday (in practice).”
East Jackson will face Cherokee Bluff this Friday on the road.