Neither team enjoyed a fast start in Tuesday’s District 10-AA matchup at Lipscomb Academy.
It was part of the plan for the Mustangs, and it took a couple quarters for East Nashville to adjust.
“The hardest thing to do is to get my team to realize that every game is not the same,” East Nashville coach Jim Fey said. “It’s not a track meet all the time.”
Once they figured that out, the visiting Eagles (18-2, 6-1), led by junior Thomas Booker’s game-high 22 points, cruised to a convincing 51-25 victory.
“We not really used to that kind of pace,” Booker said. “It’s still a good win.”
East Nashville’s defense, however, was excellent throughout, holding Lipscomb to a season-low 25 points.
“They’re one of the better coached teams in our district,” Fey said. “They wanted to spread us out, and basically their plan is to get a back-door cut or a wide open look. We really harped on not giving up the back door but also keying on their great shooters.
Junior Clayton Pickens finished with a team-high 11 for Lipscomb (8-7, 4-3), which endured an uncharacteristically poor shooting night. Drew Holliday, who was responsible for the squad’s only 3-pointer, finished with seven.
“We got great looks; we’re encouraged,” Lipscomb coach Ritchie Pickens said. “I’d say we’re pretty good shooters, but that’s a credit to them. They speed you up, they pressure you and they put a hand in your face.”
“I thought we played great defense.”
East Nashville jumped out to a 8-6 advantage after one quarter, and, after holding Lipscomb to just four second-quarter points, carried a 17-10 advantage into the break.
The Eagles increased their lead in the third, claiming a 26-12 lead on Booker’s putback with under a minute remaining, and East Nashville strung together a 9-0 run midway through the fourth quarter to blow things open.
Leonardo Holmes finished with eight points for East Nashville, while Marques Whitmon, Toree McGhee and Isaiah Blacksmith each added nine.
“Blacksmith has been struggling but he did a great job,” Fey said. “As of late he’s had some really good games. We’ve told him that he’s got to step up. He’s the biggest guy on the floor, you need to step up.”
Reach Michael Murphy at 259-8018 and on Twitter @Murph_TNsports.