The East Jackson girls’ basketball team kept its season alive Monday (Feb. 3) in the play-in game of the region tournament but was unable to stave off elimination for a second-straight night.
The Eagles cut a 20-point second-half deficit to seven points in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t complete the comeback in a 60-48 loss to Hart County Tuesday (Feb. 4) on the second day of the Region 8-AAA tournament. Tuesday’s games were all played at Franklin County.
“I think we started off a little timid, not playing up to par like I know we could,” said East Jackson coach Cherrelle Pullen, whose team was coming off a 68-39 win over Franklin County Monday. “We finally did it, and it worked, but those little things are what eat you up at the end.”
A victory would have clinched a state-tournament berth.
Antonia Pittman led the Eagles with 16 points, while Haven Rollins added 11 points.
East Jackson finished the season at 11-16 — tying the school record for wins in a season — in its first year under Pullen.
The Eagles trailed just 9-7 after a quarter, but fell behind 25-14 at the half after shooting 4-of-21 from the floor in the second quarter.
Hart County opened up the third quarter with back-to-back 3-pointers from Sydney Ertzberger, sparking a 14-5 run to increase the Bulldogs’ lead to 39-19 with 3:22 left in the third quarter.
But East Jackson worked the lead down to 43-29 entering the fourth quarter and outscored Hart County 15-8 in the first six and a half minutes of the final period to pull within seven points (51-44) with 1:30 remaining. Maurissa Thomas provided six points during that stretch.
But the Bulldogs’ Shakendra Grove, who finished with 18 points, answered with a basket, followed by a pair of free throws, to push Hart County’s lead back to double digits as the Bulldogs pulled away for the win.
Pullen, who will return most all of her roster for next year, said she hopes the season-ending loss serves as motivation.
“The first year definitely brought some adversity, I think, for myself as well as the players,” she said. “I do feel like there’s a lot of potential and a lot of positives to learn from it. But I do hope this loss, and really how the season did turn out, sort of leaves a bad taste in their mouth for the upcoming future and know what we need to do from the off-season standpoint all the way to where we’re at right now — know that it’s a never-ending cycle. Don’t stop.”