By BRYAN GASKINS
Eastern’s boys basketball team is heading into the Christmas break with a bounce in its step following a 65-58 victory over Maconaquah in the consolation round of the Coca-Cola Old School Sectional on Saturday night at Memorial Gym.
Eastern improved to 3-5.
“Oddly enough, our first game out of the break will be against Maconaquah, so this is a nice Christmas present to where we can enjoy the week, have some time off and get our heads away from it,” Eastern coach Kyle Bedwell said. “We’ll come back and hit it hard because you know Maconaquah is going to want that game.”
Maconaquah, meanwhile, is looking for answers. The Braves are 3-4 following a pair of losses in the holiday tournament.
“We didn’t show up [Saturday]. We didn’t show up for this tournament,” Mac coach Andy Steele said. “I don’t have an answer for anybody yet. We’re going back to the drawing board and like I told the guys, ‘Nothing is safe anymore.’ I’m going to look for five new guys that want to play basketball. If I can get one of them to follow along, I’ll build a team around them.
“I’m very upset with how we played this tournament. The only answer I have is they better come out harder in the North Miami tournament [Friday] or it’s just going to be a very bad season for us.”
Maconaquah had a promising start against Eastern. The Braves used an 11-0 run to build a 13-5 lead — but the Comets followed with a 7-0 run to draw within one, 13-12, by the close of the opening quarter.
The teams traded the lead six times in the second quarter. The Braves took a 27-24 advantage into halftime.
The Braves went up 42-34 deep in the third quarter, but the Comets followed with a 16-2 run to take a 50-44 lead with 5:55 left in the final quarter. Braden Gibson drilled a pair of 3-pointers to help fuel the run.
The Comets led the rest of the way. The Braves closed to within two (55-53) with possession of the ball at 2:00, but the Braves missed and Gibson hit three free throws at 1:33 to help end the Braves’ threat.
Gibson finished with a game-high 19 points. Backcourt mate K.J. Myers added 18 points, five steals and four assists for the Comets. Myers had eight turnovers, but only two in the second half.
Also for Eastern, post Josiah Marx had 13 points and forward Grant Cole had six points and 15 rebounds.
“Just all-around good team effort. I thought Josh Keith coming off the bench in the first half [was key],” Bedwell said, noting the Comets usually count on their starters to play heavy minutes. “Josh stepped in and played a great half for us.”
Keith had five points, all in the first half, giving Eastern a lift after Marx went to the bench with foul trouble.
Forward Kyle Dinn led Mac with 13 points. Post Micah Pier had 11 points and 15 rebounds, guard Adam Harts had 11 points and wing K.J. Walton had nine points and 13 boards.
Mac finished with big advantages in rebounding (47-33) and second-chance points (17-1), but hurt itself with 7-of-17 shooting from the free throw line.