Early in the fourth quarter the Eads Eagles had a five-point lead on Wiley. However, within a three-minute period that saw starter Zach Haase foul out and Eads turn the ball over a number of times, the game turned to Wiley’s advantage. Eads was left chasing another elusive win, losing 59-53. The Wiley game was the only game on the schedule for Eads over the weekend.
Head coach Marcus Gilmore was frustrated at the way the team finished, but still upbeat and proud of his team’s continued improvements, “Man! Another tough one---we had them the whole game. That was the first time this season we controlled the game in a tough bucket for bucket battle. They pressured us in the fourth with a press and we lost the lead with 5 minutes left. We just had too many turnovers. We are playing good enough to win almost every game.”
The Eads group continues to improve, and despite a 5-8 overall record, Eagle fans have not been disappointed to watch them improve and get better every game. They are playing good ball, but now must find a way to finish the close ones.
Eads started out in control against Wiley on Thursday night taking on the bigger and more athletic Panthers. The two teams had met just one other time this season, and that was in the opening round of the Lamar Holiday Basketball Tournament where Wiley defeated Eads, 64-41. “This was a team that beat us by 26 earlier this year in a game that was never close and this time by 6 at the very end. That’s a huge improvement for us!”
In the first quarter on Thursday, Eads’ freshman Brigden Parker was a force on the boards and hit three jumpers holding down the team as seniors Zach Haase, and then Trey McDowell, both got into early foul trouble. Haase took a seat pretty early in the quarter, but McDowell was forced to stay on the court and did a good job staying out of anymore serious trouble in the first half. He would hit a jumper and a couple of free throws towards the end of the first period as Eads led, 13-7.
Coming into the second period, Haase hit a key three to spark Eads, but ended up pulling his third foul minutes later and was forced to sit for the rest of the half. Sophomore Dillon Hernandez came in for Haase and did an admirable job playing his role as guard while Parker switched to a forward spot. Eads struggled in this quarter as they failed to find three-point expert Lawrence Lucero, three times, which cost the Eagles 9 points. Blake Stoker helped Eads a little after Lucero hit his third three ball answering with a long ball of his own. But Wiley had grabbed the lead at halftime by one, 26-25.
Usually, Eads struggles in the third period, but in Wiley they managed to hold their own and pull ahead by four points midway through the period. With Haase in the game, Parker found his role at guard and hit a three ball and a deuce. Stoker, on his part, found three-point land two more times from the baseline. Eads had the lead after the third quarter, by one, 38-37.
The fourth quarter was exciting for the fans in the Wiley gym as the two teams battled back and forth. With five minutes left in the game, Wiley coach Cody Wallace called a time out after Parker hit his second three ball on the night. The Panthers promptly put a box-and-one defense on Parker which put Eads out of their rhythm for a couple of possessions. However, McDowell, recognizing the new defensive set, hit a key bucket to keep Eads going. Haase would then foul out, and the Panthers took that opportunity to put a full court press on the Eagles. Eads turned the ball over too many times down the stretch and allowed the Panthers the lead as the clock wound down. Eads had to foul the Panthers to stop the clock and the Wiley bunch made their free throws going 7-for-8 down the stretch.
It was a disappointing loss for Eads because it looked as though they had control of the contest. However, head coach Marcus Gilmore was philosophical as he realizes the team is learning important lessons every time they run into these situations. “We are continuing to improve which means we haven’t peaked yet.”
Parker had another tremendous performance hitting for 23 points and pulling down 16 boards. The freshman led in assists with 3 and also had 2 steals and 3 blocks. Stoker put in a nice game with 9 points and 5 boards while McDowell chipped in 8 points and 7 assists. Haase, in his short time on the court, had 7 rebounds and 3 assists.
There were some obstacles Eads had to overcome as they were outscored on the free throw line in a huge way. While the Eagles were 7-for-10 on the free throw line, the Panthers got 17 points out of 25 attempts from the charity line. They would also have four players in double figures.
Wiley and Eads JV teams also got in a full game on Thursday. Eads would lose, 31-23. They were led by Dillon Hernandez and Brandon Lening with 9 points apiece.
Things do not get any easier for Eads next weekend as they will be on the road for two key games. First, they travel to a big conference match up with Kit Carson (11-2) on Friday night. They then travel to undefeated Holly (14-0) for a non-conference game. Eads is playing well enough to surprise either team.
Photo Credit Holly Mitchek