CLAYPOOL HILL — The Eastside boys basketball team keeps finding ways to win games.
After trailing by as many as 14 points after a rather flat first half, the Spartans won an exciting 84-79 Region 1D semifinal game over Northwood inside Southwest Virginia Community College on Thursday night.
Led by 32 points from star senior guard Ethan Powers, Eastside earned another state tournament berth and the right to face Grundy in Saturday’s finals. The game is set to begin at 5:30 p.m.
“It was uncharacteristic of us in the first half because we were back on our heels and they were attacking us on offense,” Eastside coach Patrick Damron said. “We watched Northwood play offense and we didn’t do much about it. In the second half — when it got to a crucial part of the game — we started winning some of those rebounds that we didn’t get in the first half and we started making some shots.”
The free throw line looked like it would be Eastside’s undoing as the game progressed. Three times, the Spartans missed the front end of a 1-and-1 opportunity.
However, the tables seemed to turn with 3:41 left to play when Connor Blevins sank 3 of 4 free throws to draw Eastside within one point.
Perhaps the play of the game came when Powers stole the inbounds pass with 26.5 seconds to go and Northwood trailing by only three.
“That steal was a huge play and I thought Will Stansberry’s 3-pointer that he banked in was big,” Damron said. “We were able to hit our free throws and were able to make enough plays.
“We’ve got three new starters this year and this is big for us. We’re all living in this moment.”
Grayson Whited finished with 25 points for Eastside.
Luke Carter netted 28 for the Panthers and Eli Carter tallied 16. Dyson Briggs was also in double figures for Northwood with 11.
The Golden Wave present some issues for somewhat undersized Eastside, but that’s something the Spartans have dealt with all season.
“(Grundy) has a lot of size and they get after it on the boards,” Damron said. “It won’t be anything new for us.”
Grundy 44, Twin Springs 41
A valiant effort for the Titans came up just short in the first semifinal game.
Twin Springs tied the game at 39 with 1:47 left to play after being down six with 4:20 left.
Cade Looney’s 3-pointer from the top of the key with 1:10 to go gave Grundy the lead for good. He led the Golden Wave with 21 points, including 15 in the second half.
Twin Springs had a chance to go ahead with 11.7 seconds left, down 42-41 and inbounding the ball under its own basket. However, Grundy stole the entry pass and raced to the other end. Looney was fouled and sank his two free throws.
The Titans held a 31-29 lead at halftime and had a raucous “Big Red Army” crowd believing the monumental upset could be happening before its eyes.
It was almost reminiscent of the glory days of Titans basketball, recalling the days of stars like Stacy Ervin.
Twin Springs’ defense definitely frustrated Grundy and often prevented Looney from getting the ball.
“I’m super proud of the kids and the way they fought. I couldn’t have asked for a better game,” said Twin Springs first-year head coach Ty Webb. “Obviously, they’re a really good team and they just made a few more plays down the stretch. Credit goes to them.”
Connor Lane led Twin Springs with 12 points and Christian Hinkle tallied 11.
“I think the future is bright here at Twin Springs. The seniors did a lot for us this year and I couldn’t be any more proud of them,” Webb said. “The community support here tonight was unbelievable and we travel everywhere. Our slogan this year has been ‘Titan Family’ and that shows throughout our community. … The crowd was completely behind us and that’s what Twin Springs basketball is all about.”
Patrick Henry 61, Eastside 57
A devastating late 10-0 run by Patrick Henry, from the 7:17 mark to 3:46, boosted the Lady Rebels into Saturday’s finals against Honaker.
The Lady Spartans led by eight at halftime and looked to be in control, but that is when Breanna Yarber got going for Patrick Henry and took over the game.
She finished with a team-high 21 points — 15 in the second half.
Kaylee Yates had a game-high 23 points for Eastside but scored only five in the second half.
Chloe Powers and Anna Whited also finished in double figures for the Lady Spartans, netting 15 and 11 respectively.
Patrick Henry will meet Honaker for the regional title starting at 4 p.m., Saturday. Both teams qualified for the the VHSL Class 1 tournament.
Honaker 67, Twin Springs 43
The Lady Titans hung tough in the first half, but a 10-2 Honaker run out of the halftime gate was enough to put the Lady Tigers over the top.
Lady Tigers star junior forward LeAnna McNulty did not have a good game by her standards and finished with 11 points. Halle Hilton led Honaker with 20 points, Lara McClanahan netted 15 and Kyla Boyd added 10.
Twins Springs saw its season come to an end despite a balanced effort that saw Emaleigh Powers score 20 points and Aubrey Powers 12.