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East beats Southeast 66-50 to remain unbeaten

Published Jan. 17 at 11:25 p.m. | Last updated Jan. 18 at 6:30 a.m.

Put East sophomore Xavier Kelly on the football field, and he’s a force at defensive end. At 6-foot-5, 215 pounds, Aces football coach Brian Byers said he was a beast.

Put Kelly on a basketball court and that’s when his control over his body becomes especially clear as he dominates the lane with rebounds — and a special affinity for blocked shots.

Kelly had four blocked shots as East improved to 9-0 with a 66-50 win over visiting Southeast, while East junior Isaac Fralin added three blocks.

“Anytime you’ve got someone like Xavier in the middle — he blocked five, six shots tonight and probably had some more but they called him on a couple bumps when he blocked the shots, too,” East coach Joe Jackson said. “I think it played into the minds of (Southeast).

“… You have to have a knack for the ball, and it definitely doesn’t hurt if you’ve got a 34, 35-inch vertical. That definitely is beneficial.”

Kelly, a quiet type, allowed himself a smile when he said he has a 33-inch vertical.

The art of blocking is simple, according to Kelly and Fralin.

“When you drive into me,” Kelly said, “I can’t go into them. I have to separate and create space and jump, straight up.”

Fralin said it’s all about rotating.

“It’s about sliding when they drive,” he said. “Coach talks a lot about where to go, where to be. It’s all rotation. Rotate and jump. The ball is there. Block it.”

East’s ability to block — and alter — shots was vital because Southeast is a team that loves to drive to the basket. And in the first half, Southeast shot 5 of 28 from the field.

“We missed 11 layups under the basket,” said Southeast coach Melvin Herring, whose team is 6-3 and has lost two straight. “I don’t know if it’s the contact. I think it’s more mental.”

Southeast also shot 8 of 18 free throws through the first three quarters.

While Southeast’s offense sputtered, East roared through the first half, hitting 14 of 26 shots, including 3 of 6 from three-point range.

“Defense was incredible for us,” said East junior Samajae Jones, who finished with a game-high 21 points. “Locking down (Southeast sophomore) Jerrick Harding was important for us, and we came out offensively real good. Rebound it and get it out.”

Harding scored 10, while the Buffaloes were led by Jordan Murdock’s 17 points.

Despite East’s leads of 19 at the half and 16 after three, Southeast took advantage of 11 second-half turnovers by East — and also started scoring.

Jerrick Harding’s driving layup 38 seconds into the fourth quarter started Southeast’s 11-0 run to get within 48-43 with 5:28 to go.

Jackson burned two timeouts over about 1 1/2 minutes, trying to save possessions as East turned it over five times in two minutes.

“We got out, we put pressure on the ball, we gave weak-side help,” Herring said.

As for East, Jackson said, “We went through a little series where we just really panicked. We turned it over, we let them get back in it.”

Jones scored East’s first basket of the fourth period when he hit a jumper with 3:30 to go, was fouled and made the free throw.

Murdock answered with two free throws to get back within six, but East went on a 10-3 run to ice the game.

“When you go that hard in a quarter, and we went so hard, the legs don’t last so long,” Herring said. “I’m proud of the kids.”

East’s run was capped with 28 seconds to go on a powerful block by Kelly, who leaped into the air and smacked the basketball all the way down to the Aces’ side of the court. Teammate Tyas Martin tracked it down and scored on the break.

“Coming out with defense, and if you lose, you have (Kelly) changing the shot up,” Jones said.

Martin and Zach Jackson each had 14 points.

Southeast513141850
East1522111866

Southeast – Harding 10, Murdock 17, Payne 6, Garnes 7, Loudermilk 5, Ruffin 2, Love 3.

East – Jackson 14, McGairty 2, Kelly 8, Jones 21, Martin 14, Fralin 5, Mutazammil 2.

Joanna Chadwick's recap

East's Isaac Fralin

East's Samajae Jones

East's Xavier Kelly

East coach Joe Jackson

East's student section

Southeast's student section