After watching his team struggle to a 13-16 record in his debut season, coach David Henley believes his Eastern High School boys’ basketball program is turning things around in Year Two.
The Eagles showed off their balance and depth Wednesday night with four players scoring in double figures in a 71-64 victory over visiting Jeffersontown. Eastern (10-3) has won four in a row.
“They know that we’re not at that elite level yet, but I think they want to get there,” Henley said of his players. “It’s more about our team getting there as opposed to one individual getting there.”
Cameron Reed scored 19 points to lead the Eagles. Bryce Walker-Byrd added 13, Trey Moses 11 and Anthony Howard 10.
Eastern improved to 3-0 against the Chargers this season, having won 69-62 on Dec. 22 for fifth place in the Woodford County Invitational and 71-63 on Dec. 28 for third in the John Fendley Classic at South Oldham.
“They’re really good, and I think they can make a run at the end,” J’town coach Clay Moody said of the Eagles. “Coach Henley is one of the best.”
Daniel Williams scored 14 points to lead J’town (6-7), which is No. 19 in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings. Brandon Johnson added 12 points, Brandon Marshall 11 and Isaiah Mercer 10 for the Chargers, who were 9 of 40 on 3-pointers.
“We have three or four guys who normally shoot it well, but we have to find a way to score in some other spots,” Moody said.
Walker-Byrd’s 30-foot runner at the buzzer gave Eastern a 29-23 halftime lead, but J’town tied it at 32 on Gavin Stigall’s layup with 4:50 left in the third quarter.
Then the Eagles broke it open, scoring 17 straight points for a 49-32 bulge with 26.1 seconds left in the third. Walker-Byrd scored eight points during the surge as Eastern continuously beat the Chargers down the floor for easy baskets.
“Whenever we were going slow we were letting the defense set up, so we wanted to push the tempo and keep them on their toes,” Walker-Byrd said “It worked out during that 17-0 run.”
The Chargers made a frantic comeback in the fourth quarter, pulling within 59-53 on Mercer’s 3-pointer with 2:45 remaining. But Eastern hit 10 of 12 free throws down the stretch to seal the victory.
The news wasn’t all good for Eastern, as senior Tyler Cambron aggravated an ankle injury and is questionable for Friday’s home game against Seneca. The Eagles recently lost senior starter Jicorey Girton for the season to a torn knee ligament.
But with freshmen Jonathon Lane (six points) and Sugar Ray Wyche (two) providing a boost off the bench, Henley said he’s “really happy with where our guys are. They’re good kids, and they work hard in practice.”
And a 3-0 record against theChargers is nice, too.
“We take every game seriously … but we definitely consider them a rival,” Walker-Byrd said. “As a senior, it’s nice to be 3-0 against J’town. You don’t often do that against J’town.”