ST. PAUL — The purple and gold paint on the walls of Eastside’s interim home court lend a Mardi Gras atmosphere to the green Spartans banners now hanging there.
For a while on Wednesday night, the Thomas Walker boys played like a parade was being held in their honor.
Then all of a sudden, the party was over.
A 3-pointer by Wes Milgrim with 21 seconds remaining in the game obliterated Pioneer hopes, lifting Eastside to a 62-59 Cumberland District win in the old St. Paul gymnasium.
“It shouldn’t have been a barn burner. We backed down when they got up in our face at the end,” said Thomas Walker first year coach Adam Hood, whose squad led by 19 points with 2:51 remaining in the first half.
Milgrim hit both of his only buckets of the game as Eastside finally overtook the Pioneers, ,tying the game up 59-all when he slashed to the hole with 1:10 remaining.
But for his teammates’ dirty work on the boards, he might not have had his chance for heroics.
Caleb Riner scored 11 of his 14 points during the fourth quarter comeback. He finished with eight rebounds, including two big offensive boards in the fourth. Forrest Lunsford scored 13 points, also including a fourth quarter put-back. Just before Milgrim’s trey, he deflected a Justin Catron shot attempt on a drive.
“I think we did what we do best in the second half, and that was offensive rebounding. It was almost like our best offense was just to put the ball up and go get it and put it back in,” said Spartans coach Patrick Damron, whose trailing team caught fire after he received a technical midway through the third quarter.
“We looked like a team that did not want to lose. I was proud to see that,” he added.
Wes Yeary, who finished with 14 points for Eastside (4-6, 1-0), was also a big part of the comeback. He had 13 rebounds.
After high-leaping post Tyler Scott sat down with his fifth foul with two minutes left to play, it was harder for Thomas Walker (3-7, 0-1) to counter Eastside’s aggression on the glass.
The Pioneers, who blasted off to a comfortable early lead thanks to a 3-point shooting spree by Zach Bailey, Thomas Warf and Catron, also had to close without Cody Bryant. He scored 14 points before taking his fifth foul with 3:54 remaining in the game.
“They’re good athletes and when we lost them, we took a step back,” said Hood, who got 11 points from Warf and nine from Scott.
In the girls game, Lindsay Dean scored 16 points as the Lady Spartans rolled to a 56-38 victory over Thomas Walker.
“We got the ball out and ran which we like to do. We’re just learning when to run and when not to run, which makes a great big difference,” said Eastside’s Dave Hampton, who serves as the sideline skipper while head coach Jeff Adkins is benched with a broken kneecap.
Erin Stanley scored 15 points and pulled down 17 rebounds for Eastside (5-5, 1-0). Samantha Cole scored 13 points and handed out six assists.
Marquette Garnett scored nine points to pace the Lady Pioneers (2-8, 0-1).