The East Jackson girls’ basketball team enters the 2021-22 season with a lot to be excited about.

The Eagles have a new head coach in Matt Allen. They also have a roster of talented, and athletic guards capable of scoring in a variety of ways.

“This team has a lot of guard talent, we’re guard-heavy,” said head coach Matt Allen. “We have several girls capable of breaking defenders down off the dribble and have several girls who can score. We are limited in size but I think we make up for it with our quickness and intensity on defense.”

East Jackson is coming off a season where it fell short in the Region 8-AAA Championship Game. The Eagles reached the AAA State Playoffs but ultimately lost in the first round to Sandy Creek 48-41.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Antonia Pittman, Jr: Allen loves Pittman’s ability to run the floor calling her explosive. Pittman brings a lot of speed to East Jackson’s lineup, making her dangerous in offensive and defensive transitions.

Destiny Rakestraw, Jr: Rakestraw is a sharpshooter. She shoots with good touch, making her capable of scoring a load of points each night. Allen also praised her poise as a ballhandler.

Yasmine Clark, Jr: Clark is one of East Jackson’s most physical players on both sides of the court. On offense, she uses that physicality to drive the lane. On defense, she uses it to cling to opponents.

Alani David, Jr: Is another Eagle who plays hard baseline-to-baseline. She’ll also be responsible for many of East Jackson’s rebounds this.

Haven Rollins, Sr: Rollins is East Jackson’s only senior and she’s on the verge of surpassing 1,000-career points. Rollins is great at creating her open shots.

STRENGTHS

With a roster full of guards comes a roster full of quick, athletic players. Players like Pittman and David can make plays anywhere on the court. Rakestraw has a fantastic jump shot and can reach double figures in a hurry. Clark and Rollins are physical players who can drive the lane to create their own open shots. That style translates to defense where the Eagles display a great deal of tenacity.

“We have several girls who are willing to move and make the extra rotation and the extra effort on defense,” Allen said.

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT

Because East Jackson has so many guards, it doesn’t have many post players. Allen is concerned about that becoming an issue when the Eagles meet a team full of bigger players.

“We need to be able to compete down in the low post if we’re going to play all those guards at the same time,” he said. “We’ve got to be able to guard post players. The game has become a more guard-oriented game, with more outside play and more three-point shots, but a team that’s got multiple big post players, we’re going to have to find a way to neutralize that.”

REGION 8-AAA OUTLOOK

Region 8-AAA has a lot of girls basketball talent, but the biggest challenges for East Jackson are Hart County, Monroe Area and defending champs Stephens County.

“This region is one of the more competitive ones for basketball and has been for quite some time,” he said. “You’ve got five quality opponents… we’re playing some high-quality opponents in our non-region schedule to prepare us for the 10 really tough games we have in region play.

“Last year’s team had a chance to play for a region championship. If we play well and clean up a few things on defense, and find a way to match up with bigger teams, I think we’ll have an opportunity to do that again.”

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