City League leader East stayed in attack mode throughout most of the fourth quarter Friday against North. And Blue Aces coach Joe Jackson wasn’t about to discourage it.
A couple hours earlier, Jackson expressed concern about the way his team warmed up for its homecoming contest. For three quarters, East did little to win him over.
“We didn’t move the ball,” East guard Tyas Martin said. “We took too many quick shots and didn’t get the defense moving. We made it easy on them.”
But Martin, a 6-foot-3 senior, led East on a fast finish, scoring 13 of his game-high 21 points in the final quarter of the Aces’ 65-53 victory. East, No. 5 in the Class 6A coaches’ rankings, maintained its one-game lead over Heights in the league race.
East (13-1, 10-0 City League) scored 30 points in the fourth quarter to complete a regular-season sweep over North. Traevon McGairty scored 11 points and Zach Jackson added 10 to support Martin.
“It really took us 3 1/2 quarters to play the way we’re capable of playing,” Jackson said. “North did a good job controlling the tempo on us, and we kind of fell into playing the way they wanted.”
North (7-7, 4-6), which got 19 points from Tarius Williams and 14 from Zach Beard, had its own issues. The Redskins made 11 of 24 free throws and struggled offensively in the third quarter before a late flurry cut East’s lead to 35-34.
When Beard hit two free throws nine seconds into the fourth quarter, North owned the lead.
“Overall, I’m proud of the way we fought,” North coach Gary Squires said. “We just couldn’t make a shot in the third quarter and our free-throw shooting … we’re a much better shooting team than that.”
East responded to falling behind by scoring the next eight points. McGairty picked up a deflected pass and scored to give the Aces the lead for good at 37-36. Martin added consecutive field goals in the lane and Isaac Fralin scored on a follow shot.
The Aces finished with a 37-31 rebounding advantage, including 23-15 in the second half.
“That was probably the other thing that really bothered me, especially our rebounding on missed free throws,” Squires said. “It seemed at times like the ball was at their end for 10 minutes.”
Still, North trailed just 49-45 after Beard’s layup with 3:12 to play. After shooting 34 percent from the field the first three quarters, East made 10 of 18 shots in the final eight minutes. But the Aces’ missed opportunities gave North transition chances, keeping the Redskins within striking distance.
East countered with good free-throw shooting, making 10 of 12 in the fourth quarter and 19 of 26 for the game.
“We weren’t very good in warmup and Coach really talked to us about that,” Martin said. “Then just being up one point at halftime, we knew we had to attack and move the ball a lot more than we were.”