Senior Omar Brown scored a team-high 19 points and senior Qua Brodus added 15 as Eastside spoiled Gainesville’s Senior Night with a 52-50 win on Friday night at the Purple Palace.
It was the seventh straight win in the series for the Rams (19-1), who won their 16th straight this season.
Gainesville got off to better start than the first meeting on Jan. 15 at Eastside when they trailed by 13 at the end of the first quarter.
Senior Justus Wilburn’s buzzer-beater three at the end of the first quarter gave the Hurricanes (9-11) a 14-11 lead heading into the second quarter.
Wilburn scored 12 of his game-high 22 points in the first half as the Hurricanes took a 23-21 lead into the locker room.
“GHS was ready to play,” said Eastside coach Pop Williams, whose team is ranked third in the state in Class 4A. “They played hard. We got a couple of breaks and that really changed the game.”
They also hit their free throws.
The Rams made 9-of-11 in the fourth quarter to help lead Eastside back from a four-point deficit entering the final period.
“Just to come back, it feels good,” Williams said.
Brown, who hit three 3-pointers in the game, hit both of his free throws in the fourth quarter and scored nine points in the second half.
“That’s what he’s been doing,” Williams said. “We think he could have gone to the basket more. He kind of settled on some jump shots earlier. He adjusted in the second half.”
Brodus scored nine points in the final quarter and also went 2-for-2 at the line. Senior Jarvey Gainey, who was held to just nine points, was 4-for-4 from the line in the final quarter.
The charity stripe proved to be the difference in the game.
“We played fairly well and had a chance to go down the stretch and maybe win it,” said GHS coach Kelly Beckham, who remains three wins shy of 800 career victories. “You’ve got to give Eastside credit. They just made more plays than we did.”
Despite the loss, Beckham did see improvement against the Rams.
“Our half-court defense was much better tonight (than the previous meeting),” Beckham said. “We handled the ball better and didn’t have as many turnovers.”
This was the regular season finale for both teams, who will now turn their attention to next week’s district tournaments.
Eastside is the No. 1 seed in 4A-District 5. The Rams will receive a bye and play the winner of North Marion-Keystone Heights in Wednesday’s district semifinals.
GHS, the No. 4 seed in 6A-District 2, will host city rival and No. 5 seed Buchholz on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. in the district quarterfinals. The Bobcats snapped a 12-game losing streak to the Hurricanes last Friday.
“We’re capable of winning,” said Beckham, who was going to hold a rare Saturday afternoon practice. “We’ve just got to prepare the next couple of practices and make sure that we’re all on the same page.”