Boys basketball: Countryside 55, East Lake 49
CLEARWATER – It was not the most technically-sound game. There were errant passes, missed shots and defensive lapses.
But it was a win.
That is all that mattered for Countryside, which beat East Lake 56-49 to clinch the No. 1 seed in the Class 8A, District 10 tournament.
“That was our first game in a while where we haven’t looked very good,” Cougars coach Jeff Powers said. “I don’t want to call it a dud but they know they have to play better.”
Powers sensed a game like this was possible considering the way his team practiced Monday.
“We were lackadaisical in practice and did some uncharacteristic things in the game,” Powers said.
Trailing 10-2 in the first quarter, Countryside started chipping away at the deficit. The Cougars cut it to 11-10 at the end of the quarter on Tyler Witz’s buzzer-beating putback.
At the start of the second quarter, Troy Reeves hit a 3-pointer to give Countryside its first lead, 13-11.
The Cougars (14-5) never trailed after that.
By the half, Countryside led 37-27 thanks to last-second 3-pointer by CJ Williams.
The Eagles (10-8) kept it close, cutting it to 42-41 early in the fourth quarter. It has been a tough stretch for East Lake, which has lost four straight and fell out of contention for one of the top two seeds in the district tournament.
“We’ll probably meet Countryside in the tournament just like we did last year,” said Eagles coach Britt Taylor, whose team knocked off the Cougars in last season’s district semifinals. “I’m competitive. I never like losing, but at least we started hitting some shots tonight. It’s very encouraging, especially after scoring 25 points against Jesuit.”
East Lake’s Breon Hillmon led all scorers with 15 points. Williams had a team-high 14 points for Countryside, followed by Christian Shaneyfelt with 13.
For the Cougars, the top spot in the district was one of the goals at the start of the season. It doesn’t end there. Countryside now wants to win the district title, something the program has not done since 1989.
“We played some competition in the summer and the regular season to get to this point,” Powers said. “We’re trying to get some banners because we don’t have a lot of them hanging in this gymnasium for boys basketball.”