The same squad that started strong last season before disappearing down the stretch kicked off 2008 with a bang by beating the Falcons 68-63.
“Our goal this year is we’re going to finish in January,” said East coach John Dyer.
The Patriots (13-5, 6-1), who are tied for second place in the Big 9 Conference, certainly finished strong in this one. With sharpshooter Isaac Snapp held scoreless in the second half, Koree Deeb and Jordan Cross mustered tremendous performances. Deeb and Cross combined for 25 of the Patriots’ 34 second-half points, including 13 of their final 15.
Deeb led East with 19 points.
“Koree has worked extremely hard and just hasn’t shot the ball well until lately,” Dyer said. “We think he’s that last weapon we need.”
Cross had 11, all in the second half. He put East ahead for good at 61-60 with 1:11 left on a layup.
That and other drives to the hoop by Cross in the final stretch frustrated Falcons coach Todd Whittemore.
“Three possessions, they run the same play on us with a freshman and we ain’t got nobody who’s going to stop a layup,” he said. “I say that from a player’s standpoint. I wouldn’t have let that happen.”
At the time, Volunteer’s frontcourt was in serious foul trouble. Jordan Sandidge and Cameron Trent fouled out, and Javian Shivers was saddled with four violations.
“If we hadn’t had those (two) guys fouled out, they would’ve been in there guarding him,” Whittemore said.
Volunteer led by eight twice and nine once in the first half, but East rallied to make it a 36-34 ballgame by intermission.
The Falcons (5-7, 4-3) hurt their cause by committing 19 turnovers.
“Just silly, silly, silly, silly, silly turnovers,” Whittemore said. “We’re a tightrope artist on the sideline for no reason.”
Aaron Bennett led all scorers with 27 points for Volunteer. Keith Cradic tallied 21 despite playing against East’s box-and-1 defense all night.
Kyle Barnes added 10 points for East. Snapp scored nine, well below some of his totals this season. Dyer praised the effort of Dillon Faver, who finished with nine points, nine rebounds and three assists.
“He was on the boards, he played tough, made great passes,” Dyer said. “I’m thrilled with the toughness that we have.”
East’s girls made it a varsity sweep, topping Volunteer 52-50 to earn their first Big 9 win of the season. Lindsey Loudermilk scored the winning bucket on a putback with 5.6 seconds remaining.
The Lady Patriots (4-15, 1-6) have had a difficult season to date, and the tough times continued in a recent trip to a tournament in London, Ky.
“The last game we came together. It kind of kicked off the second half of our season,” Loudermilk said.
Volunteer (2-9, 1-6) had one last chance and put it in the hands of Shanque Price, who already had 34 points. Price put up a jumper from inside the lane but it was off the mark.
“It never should have come down to that,” Lady Falcons coach Dennis Anderson said. “We stood around on defense for three quarters.
“I’m tired of playing people close. We need to start winning some games.”
Anderson said Price’s performance set a school record.
Callie McGrew and Kelsey Trivett were the lone Lady Patriots in double digits with 10 each, but East did get balanced production. Sarah Barham and Kayla Evans each scored nine and Loudermilk added eight.