Those were the words of Eastside boys basketball coach Patrick Damron after his Spartans won a low-scoring thriller over Grundy, 43-42, in the Region 1D championship on Saturday night inside Southwest Virginia Community College.
“I told our team at halftime that it was going to be the first one to 50 wins,” Damron said.
Both teams fought for every basket and rebound, but Eastside put together a 10-0 run to start the fourth quarter to go up 41-33 with 4:14 left. It was the largest lead of the game for either team.
The Golden Wave fought back for a 42-41 lead with 1:34 remaining, but the Spartans went back on top on a strong putback by freshman Eli McCoy, who finished with a strong 12 points.
Grundy had the chance to go ahead in the final minute, but with 6.6 seconds left, the Golden Wave threw away the ball trying to make a cross-court pass and the ball went to the Spartans.
Eastside safely inbounded the ball and time expired.
Grayson Whited led Eastside with 14 points and Ethan Powers had 10 despite struggling from the field.
Blake Meadows led Grundy with 15 points. Star big man Cade Looney, frustrated all night, had 11.
“I thought it was a very well-played defensive game and both teams had a pretty good idea of what the other was going to do,” Damron said. “I felt like in the first half that we had some good looks, but we rushed them. Hats off to Grundy because they have a lot of length and size that bothered us.
“In that fourth quarter, we settled down and we were able to lift some of their bigs out from the paint to guard our guards. We were able to beat them off the dribble and cut to the paint.”
It was the second regional championship in three years for the Spartans, who defeated Honaker two seasons ago for the title.
ON TO STATE
In the VHSL Class 1 quarterfinals, the Spartans host Region 1C runner-up Auburn on Friday, March 6 at a neutral site chosen by Eastside.
Grundy travels to face Region 1C champion Parry McCluer that day, also at a neutral site.
PATRICK HENRY GIRLS PREVAIL
In the Region 1D girls final, Patrick Henry rallied from a late deficit and pulled out a 48-44 victory over Honaker.
The Lady Rebels trailed 36-29 with over seven minutes left after their offense had sputtered for the better part of a quarter and half.
But like she has all season, Patrick Henry’s best player took over the game. Breanna Yarber scored 12 of her 18 points in the fourth, including a crucial jumper from the left side of the lane with 48.6 seconds to go with her team up two possessions.
“These girls are such good shooters that being down doesn’t bother them that much as long as we’re playing good defense,” Patrick Henry coach Tommy Thomas said.
Perhaps the play of the game came from the senior Kaycee Deskins, who stole a pass intended for Honaker’s LeAnna McNulty with 6.5 seconds left and was fouled. Deskins stepped up to the line and calmly knocked down two free throws to ice the victory.
“Kaycee has been big all year for us,” Thomas said. “She scores, passes and comes up big for us all the time. That might’ve been her best steal of the year.”
Honaker — led by McNulty’s game-high 26 points — battled back from a 22-7 first-half hole and took a 30-29 lead with 2:18 left in the third.
The Lady Tigers ended the first half on a 10-0 run to close within five, but they were hurt by making only one of their 3-point attempts.
ON TO STATE
Patrick Henry meets Region 1C runner-up Galax at Emory & Henry on Friday, March 6, in the VHSL Class 1 quarterfinals. Honaker travels to face Region 1C champion George Wythe at a neutral site on that day.