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Southeast hands East first league loss

Published Feb. 27 at 11:18 p.m. | Last updated Feb. 28 at 7:41 a.m.

The setting was perfect Thursday night for Southeast as the Buffaloes faced one of their biggest rivals, East, in front of two loud student sections in a packed, oh-so-warm gym for the final regular-season boys basketball game.

“That’s the atmosphere you want to be in,” Southeast coach Melvin Herring said. “That’s what you live for. If you’re a basketball player, that’s the atmosphere you want.”

Throw in the fact that East was looking to finish the City League season at 16-0, and the emotional level increased several notches.

Southeast played spoiler, though, beating visiting East 67-59.

“The important part is, it was a great win to pick up from our Tuesday game (a loss at Heights) that we struggled in,” senior EJ Garnes said. “Not a lot of energy.

“… We picked it up tonight. Our crowd was a huge part of that.”

And so was Southeast’s quickness. Garnes, one of the speediest players in the area, drove the lane over and over, sometimes scoring himself — he had 14 points. Most of the time, as East’s defense collapsed to the lane, Garnes passed to one of his wide-open teammates.

“Our transition defense was poor, we got beat back too much,” said East coach Joe Jackson, whose team is the No. 1 seed in its Class 6A sub-state and will play host to Manhattan on Thursday. “When you get beat back in transition, when your defensive rotations are poor, between EJ getting to the rim several times at crucial times and not contesting shots to the best of our ability.… ”

Jackson paused to shake his head.

“My biggest frustration is on the defensive end for us. We were not ourselves tonight,” he said.

When East opened the game with a 12-4 run, it seemed a replay of the first game would ensue. East beat Southeast 66-50 on Jan. 17.

An 11-3 run — sparked by seven first-quarter points by Jordan Murdock — to end the first quarter got Southeast within one, and it was a close game after that. Murdock scored 16 of his game-high 23 points in the first half.

Southeast took control in the span of two minutes of the fourth with a burst of scoring sparked by Garnes’ drive to the basket.

“EJ’s probably our most important player,” sophomore Jerrick Harding said. “He controls the game really well and he gets us open a lot.”

Garnes scored to put Southeast up 52-46 with 4:29 remaining. Then the Buffaloes got the ball back on a defensive rebound and Garnes drove, passing the ball to Harding, who scored.

Then Garnes got the defensive rebound and found Harding for another basket. Harding, who had 12 of his 20 points in the fourth, was fouled and hit the free throw.

Finally, capping the 10-0 run, Harding hit a three with 3:22 to go.

East hurriedly called time but threw up two quick threes coming out of the break.

And while the Aces got two straight baskets from Samajae Jones and one from Tyas Martin in just 45 seconds, East also gave up four points.

“We wanted to use (Garnes’) speed to our advantage,” Herring said. “We wanted them to chase us. Once we got that lead, it started to play in our favor.”

It didn’t hurt that East, which was led by Zach Jackson’s 16 points and Martin’s 15, made 33 percent of its second-half shots.

“The guys are taking it hard,” Joe Jackson said. “We’ve got to get a little bit tougher. Little things make you or break you in the game of basketball. It comes down to, in basketball, some of those things like not getting back on (defense), tonight they hurt us.”

East1615121659
Southeast1517132267

East: Jones 10, Kelly 12, McGairty 5, Martin 15, Jackson 16, Fralin 1.

Southeast: Murdock 23, Loudermilk 4, Garnes 14, Oyugi 2, Ruffin 4, Harding 20.