COUGAR BASKET — Covington’s Kiante Barber (20) tips in a score early in Saturday’s Class 1 state quarterfinal game against Eastside at the University of Virginia at Wise. The Spartans won the contest, 89-43. (Photo Courtesy of David Crigger/Bristol Herald Courier)
WISE — Eastside’s basketball season ended abruptly in the state quarterfinals the last two years.
Saturday at the Prior Center on the campus of the University of Virginia at Wise, the Spartans made sure that the third time was the charm.
Ethan Powers scored a team-high 18 points, while Colyn Sturgill added 16 points and 15 rebounds as the Region D champs overwhelmed Coving-ton, 89-43.
Eastside, now 25-3 on the season, returns to Wise tonight to face off with George Wythe, the Region C champion, in the Class 1 state semifinals.
The Cougars ended a tremendous season with a record of 20-6, making their first state tournament trip in 25 years.
“I hate that it ended this way,” said Covington head coach Keith Moore. “These guys have a lot to be proud of this season.”
Saturday, the Cougars stayed with the Spartans for the opening couple minutes.
Kiante Barber’s offensive rebound and score, a drive through the lane from K.J. Moore and a Garrett Crawford three had Covington on top 7-6.
But Eastside scored nine straight and took an 18-10 lead at the first break.
Another Moore basket, an Amir Young steal and lay-up and Jabari Williams’ paint basket kept CHS within seven — 23-16 — with 4:50 left until half.
But a quick 11-0 spurt gave the Spartans a double-digit lead that they would never surrender.
Eastside’s length caused the Cougars problems on both ends of the floor.
Sturgill, 6-foot-7, was 8-for-10 from the field on the way to his double-double, while Luke Lawson, 6-foot-8, had nine points, eight rebounds and 10 assists.
The Spartans shot 71 percent from the floor in the second half and 64 percent in the game. They outscored the Cougars in the paint, 56-22.
But it was the Eastside zone defense that was ultimately the difference.
“It’s hard to practice against that length,” said Moore. “Our guys were altering our shots around the big guys. That zone stretched us out.”
After Crawford’s three in the first two minutes, the Cougars missed 24 straight and finished the day 1-for-26 from distance.
Covington was 14-for-61 (23 percent) overall in the game.
“It’s no big secret, we couldn’t make any shots,” the coach continued. “We’re usually not a really good jump shooting team. But we knew coming into the game that we were going to have to shoot a lot of jumpers. We ran our offense through them.”
Moore had a double-double for the Cougars with 21 points and 12 rebounds. Amir Young added six points, while Tijon Rice had five.
“Honestly, I’m lost for words,” K.J. said. “We did what we could. Like coach said, it’s hard to practice for that length. We’re not used to that, we’ve never played anybody as big as them. I even had to alter my lay-ups.”
Moore was one of seven seniors suiting up for the last time in the blue and gold.
“I wouldn’t have wanted to play with anybody else,” he said. “They’re my boys.”
Eastside, a consolidation of St. Paul and Coeburn high schools, opened its doors in the fall of 2011.
Tonight’s match-up with George Wythe is the Spartans’ first trip to the state semifinals.
“I’ll tell you this I was concerned about Covington,” said Eastside head coach Patrick Damron. “I didn’t know at what point a lead was going to be safe because they are so quick, they are so athletic and they are really good at turning you over. But I thought tonight we were on a mission. We would have beaten about anybody we would have played.”