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Lady Eagles punch ticket to state tournament

GAINESVILLE -- Eastside's Jazzmine Cook played one of her best games and helped lead the Lady Eagles past Lanier 61-51 in the Region 8-AAAA tournament play on Monday.

Cook paced all scorers with 21 points as well as nabbing eight steals.

"In our book, she is the player of the year. She made first team all region but I was disappointed. She led the league in points, 13.1 points, she led the league in steals averaging over five," Lady Eagles head coach Matthew Johnson said. "I just told her it was time to show that they made a mistake."

As a result of their win, the Eastside girls advanced to the state tournament for the fifth straight year. They will play for seeding against No. 1 seed Chestatee at 7 p.m. on Thursday.

In their previous meeting, the Lady Eagles handed Chestatee their only region loss beating them 45-44.

"It was a hard fought battle the first time we played Chestatee. I predict that it's going to be a good hard-fought game," Johnson said. "Their only (region) loss was to us so they're going to come out strong trying to prove it was a fluke. As long as we go out and execute and play defense well and do the things we know they could do we'll be fine."

The Eastside girls jumped out to a 17-10 lead before the Lady Longhorns came back strong in the second period. Lanier came back and outplayed the Lady Eagles outscoring them 22-12 to take a 32-29 halftime lead.

"They made an adjustment to our press and we slowed down, we weren't as aggressive with our press. The girls weren't moving as fast so they were able to come back and we went on a cold streak," Johnson said.

However, the Lady Eagles were able to make adjustments of their own turning a three-point deficit into a five-point lead after coming back from the locker room before continuing to increase their lead to win the game by 10 points.

"The adjustments we made was that I told them there is no tomorrow. If you want to win, you have to leave it out there. They had to move their feet, box them out and play defense," Johnson said. "We were able to turn that around in the third and fourth quarter. We started being more aggressive and started playing better defense. We were able to pull away and hold that lead."

A big part which allowed the Lady Eagles to turn their game around and the win was the play of point guard DeShantra Kelly who scored 13 points.

"She stepped up and handled the ball. She's our point guard and it seems like she's finally falling into that role. She's one of our best ball handlers and facilitates it very well," Johnson said. "We can't do it without her and I'm so proud she's stepping up."