East didn't have its most dynamic scorer on the court in Nate Jackson, but its defense picked up the slack against South in a 59-41 win at South on Saturday night.
"Any time you can sit a player like Nate Jackson and win then you must be pretty deep and pretty talented," East coach Ron Allen said. "Nathan is recovering from a respiratory infection. We'll have him back next week. By that time we'll have other kids thinking they can play a little bit and that helps us even more."
Sophomore Larry Dennis and senior RJ Melbert picked up the scoring in the paint in the absence of Jackson. Melbert scored seven points in the first half and Dennis came off the bench with Ronnie McFann in foul trouble and had six first-half points. Dennis left the game after falling hard and hitting his head on a fast-break dunk attempt in the third quarter.
East (10-4, 8-2) held South(4-11, 2-9) to two made shots from the field in the first quarter. South didn't make its first field goal until Matt Perkins hit a pull-up jumper from behind the three-point line with 1:29 left in the first. The Aces held a 34-16 halftime lead and kept South at bay for the rest of the game. Patrick Parker lead South with 10 points.
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After losing three consecutive games to end the month of January, East has a two-game winning streak this month. It is a small step in the right direction for junior guard Jalen Love (12 points)
"We're getting in a rhythm," Love said. "It takes time because we did lose a couple of games, but I think once we get back to practice and get a couple of wins under our belts we will get it back together."
Allen sees improvement in his team already.
"We got out of synch and out of a winning groove when we went into the midseason," Allen said. "There were teams we know we should have beaten. But still I'm happy with the way we've recovered. We're starting to show the signs of rebirth. The kids are smiling they're having good practices. They are pulling for one another and it's a whole team effort."
East (10-4, 8-2) 13 21 14 11 — 59 South (4-11, 2-9) 5 11 10 15 — 41
EAST: Williams 2 1-4 6, Love 5 2-2 12, Graham 2 0-0 4, Melbert 2 3-4 7, McFann 2 0-0 4, Dennis 2 4-4 8, Johnson 2 4-6 8, Terrell 1 2-2 4, S.Normore 1 0-0 2, J.J. Normore 1 0-1 2, Nespore 1 0-0 2. Totals 21 (1) 16-23 59.
SOUTH: Parker 5 0-2 10, Wesley 3 2-3 9, Perkins 2 0-0 5, Johnson 1 0-0 2, Wilson 1 1-2 3, Keiswetter 1 2-4 4, Craig 3 2-4 8. Totals 16 (2) 7-15 41 .