GIBSONTON — No team wants to end a playoff run with a loss, but falling to the No. 2 team in the state may be a blessing in disguise for the East Bay boys basketball team.
Billy Teeden watched almost helplessly from the bench as the Bartow Yellow Jackets outscored his Indians 47-16 in the second half en route to a 77-39 win Tuesday.
Yet, the fourth-year coach saw the future of his squad in the most unlikely of places: the Bartow Yellow Jackets themselves.
Bartow represents what could very well be the future for East Bay, and if the two teams meet again next season, the outcome could be far different.
That's because eight of the 11 Yellow Jackets will be gone, while the Indians return 11. It's a young nucleus that has already shown greatness through a 21-6 season, and has the potential to do so much more.
For example, in the team's two playoff games, seniors Marcus Wright, James Mellinger, Todd Flournoy, Xavier Williams and Donte Bostic combined for 27 points and 16 rebounds.
The rest of the squad tallied 73 points and 20 rebounds in the two games, including 26 points from three-point master Mike Washington, 18 from M.J. Williams, and a combined 29 points from Anton Crutcher and sophomore Jonathan Jean.
And now that East Bay has had a taste of the state playoffs by making it to the final 16, the Indians are hungry for more.
"That's the thing about this being a young team," Teeden said. "We get to experience that and understand that, and now hopefully we learn from it."
The regional semifinal stage was the largest one yet for the Indians. They proved they could keep pace with one of the state's best teams, down just 30-23 at the half on Tuesday.
Yet, it was experience that pushed the Yellow Jackets out of the gate in the second half to dominate, and it's experience East Bay will look to have on its side next season.
Bartow "made their run like a good team would, and now we know what it takes to come out of a half and be ready," Teeden said.
That means being ready to go when the whistle blows and halting an opponents' momentum before they get on a run.
Losing a tough game could be discouraging, but the Indians insist they still have a lot of fight left. Bartow will be a rallying cry next year.
"We'll use this game as motivation," Teeden said. "If we want to be at a Bartow level, then we have to do what they just did to us. And trust me, we'll be ready."