Prep Hoops: Eagles flying to unexpected heights
How has the East Davidson boys won five straight games in the Central Carolina Conference? Not even head coach Matt Jacobs is sure, but he is enjoying the ride his scrappy squad is taking him on.
“I do not know how to explain it,” said Jacobs. “We are just focused and have been having a good time. We are taking it one game at a time and we are in really good shape and control whether or not we finish in second.”
Indeed, the Golden Eagles do control their own destiny. After stumbling out of the gate to an 0-3 start, EDHS has since beaten five consecutive CCC foes and entering Tuesday’s games, sat all alone in second place with a 5-3 mark. Central continues to pace the field at 7-1, but that lone loss came against the streaking Eagles last Friday in Thomasville. If East can win one of its two remaining games, they can do no worse than a tie for second. Two wins accompanied by two Spartan losses would create a tie for the regular season championship.
The recent surge has been a surprise, but making it even more impressive is the fact they have done it with injuries to a pair of starters. Braxton Shetley was injured during the NewBridge Bank Christmas Classic in December and sat several weeks, while Josh Craven went down in the Jan. 11 game at Thomasville and made his return Friday in a 45-42 win over the Spartans.
“We have had different people out during the whole streak,” said Jacobs. “Friday was the first time we had dressed everybody since the Christmas tournament. Somebody different has stepped up for us each night.”
Taylor Booze remains the focal point and team leader of the Eagles, with Craven and Shetley serving as veteran role players. Others like Adam Davis and Austin Miller have provided positive play, but the guy that has taken the team to that next level is senior Matthew Johnson. Team MVP as a sophomore with the junior varsity, Johnson sat out his junior year before returning as a senior. He makes at least one play per night that wows the crowd, and his driving ability opens up plenty of options.
“Matthew makes a lot of plays that nobody else can make,” said Jacobs. “It was a slow start for him to readapt to everything having missed a year. All of a sudden there was an opportunity to stick him in there and he has made the most of it.”
Jacobs set a goal for his team to finish in the top half of the standings and win a playoff game. With two games to go, it appears goal No. 1 will be achieved. The way the Eagles are playing right now, a win in the postseason may not be far behind.
Sports Editor Zach Kepley can be reached at 888-3631, or firstname.lastname@example.org.