This season’s version is looking to do the same.
After finishing 26-4 and as state runner-up last season, this season’s Spartans — with a brand new starting five — are off to an 8-1 start, including Thursday’s 85-52 win over Berea, Ky., in the quarterfinals of the Grand Home Furnishings Holiday Classic at Virginia-Wise’s Prior Center.
“I think we play with a little bit of a chip on our shoulder because I think a lot of these guys were on the team last year, they got to Richmond (and the state championship game); they weren’t the guys who were on the court, most of the time. And now, I think they’re ready to prove that they can play,” said Eastside coach Patrick Damron, who engineered that run to the state final last season. “I think we’re finding what works for us. We’re finding our stride. Sharing the ball, beating people off the dribble and knocking down open shots.”
Sharing the ball is one of the biggest keys, Damron said.
The Spartans are averaging 17 assists a game. They had 19 on Thursday, including seven from Nick Livingston, who also finished with 19 points.
“Nick was hot the first half and we did a very good job of finding Nick,” Damron said. “As a coach sometimes, I just get caught up in watching them, just because I do feel like they’re so unselfish.”
Ethan Powers finished with a game-high 29 points for Eastside. Connor Blevins added 13 and J.R. Kilgore had 12.
Chris Swann added 12 rebounds for the Spartans.
Berea (6-5) got 14 points from Triston Duckworth, and Zane Brown and Ben West added 11 each.
CENTRAL TAKES DOWN HONAKER
Wise Central bounced back from a low-scoring affair on Wednesday to take a 79-63 win over Honaker in the Grand Classic quarterfinals.
The Warriors (6-3) led the Tigers 35-27 at halftime, and they kept their margin in the third when both scored 18 points. Central outscored Honaker (3-2) in the final period 26-18 to pull away for the victory.
Elijah Hayes led Central’s scorers with 21 points, and Bryson Collins had 14 points and nine rebounds. The Warriors also got 13 points from Tyler Vanover and 12 from Landon Elkins.
Honaker’s Grayson Honaker finished with a game-high 24 points. Brett Boyd had 16 and Trajon Boyd finished with 15.
RAIDERS ROLL IN QUARTERFINALS
J.I. Burton used a total team effort to roll to a 79-50 quarterfinal win over Chilhowie.
The Raiders (4-1) got 19 points from Caleb Williams, 17 points and 10 rebounds from Houston Thacker, and 14 points apiece from Zac Campbell and Derek Allen. Trevor Culbertson added nine assists for Burton.
Chilhowie (2-3) got 17 points from Dylan Catron.
RICHLANDS ADVANCES TO SEMIFINALS
Richlands (4-3) got 26 points and 13 rebounds from Race Moir and 23 points from Cade Berry on the way to a 66-55 quarterfinal win over Northwood (5-4).
The Blue Tornadoes led 35-23 at halftime and played the Panthers evenly in the second half to come away with the win.
Luke Carter finished with 19 points to lead Northwood, Eli Carter added 15 and Tyler Strong finished with 11.