The last time the District 10-AAA champion Northeast Eagles won a game by less than 20 points was Jan. 21, a streak spanning nine games. For the District 9-AAA No. 4 seed, Gallatin Green Wave to go on the road in the Region 5 quarterfinal and play NEHS tight is not to be taken lightly.
Unfortunately for GHS, moral victories don’t mean much at this point in the season, and the 53-40 final sends the Eagles to the region semifinal on Tuesday and the Green Wave home.
Gallatin led after the first quarter, albeit by a slim margin – 7-3. Their lead grew as high as 13-8 before Northeast’s offense began to click, feeding off their defense to reliably score in transition. After trailing by just four at halftime, the Green Wave found themselves down by 16 with just eight minutes left.
“I think our ball movement, we were a little sporadic,” Gallatin head coach Bobby Luna said. “Sometimes the ball was sticking, but that’s because Northeast did a good job of getting up and denying. I thought that we failed to back cut quick enough when we were denied. We kind of stood, tried to take our offense a little higher from the mid-court. Some of that is youth and inexperience, so it’s something we can get better at in the future.”
Every one of Gallatin’s points came from starters.
As for the Eagles, they once again received contributions from up and down the lineup, though they were paced offensively by the usual suspects in Isaiah Farrior’s 12 points and Marcus Averthart’s 11.
Their lack of offense early on came from a disturbance in their typical upbeat, run-and-gun style of play. Gallatin controlled the ball most of the first quarter into a chunk of the second, making Northeast play defense sometimes for two minutes at a time.
Once things sped up, they went on a 26-7 run between the middle of the second quarter and through the end of the third.
“It’s a typical first round region game,” said Northeast coach Sam Young. “Coach Luna does a great job preparing his team, they’re a very well-oiled machine offensively… They spread us out and took a lot of time off the clock. I knew that was going to be his mindset to come at us. Once the game started to get a little bit faster, we kind of got into our rhythm and got into our mojo. It’s one of those grind-it-out games, we haven’t been in one of those for a while, so it was good for us.”
With the loss, Green Wave seniors Jaden Williams, Noah Ring, Jack Richardson, and Beljwok Adaing will depart the program.
“I think those guys have got to understand how hard they worked to get to where we got to,” Luna said. “Three trips to the region is not bad, last year going all the way to the sectional. They can certainly hang their hat on that as a memory. They were all starters as juniors and seniors… I think our kids have a lot to be proud of.
“They’re disappointed tonight and I told them you can be disappointed tonight because we didn’t find a way to win the basketball game, but you certainly can’t be disappointed in yourself or your teammates and the effort that they gave.”
Northeast (53): Isaiah Farrior 12, Marcus Averhart 11, Jalen Bussey 8, Jalen Hooks 8, Jaylen Miller 6, Ty Jackson 4, Josh Alexander 2, Tomario Vereen 2.
Gallatin (40): Belkwok Adaing 15, Noah Ring 8, Jaden Williams 7, Cade Martin 5, AJ Davis 5.