East Jefferson defeated Northshore 47-37 Friday in the first round of the Holy Cross Christmas Classic.
The Warriors led by 18 points with just over two minutes left to play before the Panthers (7-8) sliced the lead with a late run.
The Warriors backcourt of Eion McGee and Manny Nicolas combined for 30 points. McGee finished with 14 points on 6-for-7 shooting. Nicolas led the Warriors with 16 points and also recorded four steals.
After struggling early, East Jeff gained some separation and extended its lead to 17 points by the close of the third quarter. Coach Ryan Dicharry made adjustments to his half- court defense in order to neutralize the Panthers (7-8) post play.
“We had a tough time with their big guy down low, but we were able to fight through that,” Dicharry said. “We tried to keep to guys on him at all times because we were at a height disadvantage. I told our guys to use their speed and keep the energy high. I knew they couldn’t match us in that department.”
McGee was hot throughout, but his first half was efficient. He tallied 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting. East Jefferson 25-17 at halftime.
Northshore coach Joey Tolis was not pleased with his team’s inability to stop the Warriors’ guards. He said his team needed more defense intensity.
“We didn’t get the effort we needed from our players today, and it showed on the stat sheet,” Tolis said. “They got really good penetration from their guards, and we didn’t counter well. I know we just came off of the holiday break, but that is no excuse for our play. The other team had the same break, and they took it to us.”
There were a few bright spots on offense for Northshore.
The Panthers had a significant height advantage thanks to 6-foot-6 center Will Claiborne. The Warriors had no answer for Claiborne in the first half. Claiborne was so dominant he scored 16 of the Panthers 17 first-half points. He had a relatively quiet second half, finishing with 22 points. Kevin Hopkins scored 10 points and dished out six assists for Northshore.
East Jeff will play Riverside in the second round at 10:30 a.m. Saturday