Then Surry County took over.
The Cougars (29-2) broke loose for seven straight points and outscored Eastside 9-3 in the final minute to take a 57-48 win Saturday in the VHSL Class 1 boys basketball championship game at Virginia Commonwealth’s Siegel Center.
Eastside (26-5) lost for the second straight year in the state championship game — Lancaster edged the Spartans 50-47 last season — but the scenario was different this time around.
View the photo gallery from the game
“Last year we were the favorite to win. If you asked someone at the beginning of the year if Eastside was going back to the state championship, they would’ve said probably not,” Spartans coach Patrick Damron said.
“These kids won 26 games this year. We’re not upset and we’re not going to hang our heads.”
DOWN TO THE FINAL MINUTE
The teams battled like two heavyweight boxers, exchanging punch for punch. The game featured nine ties and 15 lead changes.
“It came down to the fourth quarter and pretty much the final three minutes,” Damron said. “You know at that point, it’s going to come down to who makes the most plays and Surry made the plays.”
Eastside led 40-37 heading into the fourth quarter but quickly fell behind.
After the Spartans tied the game at 45 on two free throws from Ethan Powers, the Cougars took the lead for good. Zhamare Slade hit 1 of 2 free throws for a 46-45 Surry advantage with 3:07 remaining, and QuanDriel Palmer’s basket at the 2:38 mark put Surry ahead 48-45.
The score stayed that way until 1:07 remained when another bucket from Palmer sparked a 7-0 dagger of a run that left the Cougars with a 55-45 lead with 15 seconds left.
“In their minds they just said we’re not going to lose,” Surry coach James Pope Jr. said. “The boys worked hard and they were determined to win.”
BIG ON THE BOARDS
Rebounding was a major difference in the outcome.
Surry County outrebounded Eastside 42-28, including 10-4 in the fourth quarter.
The Cougars had 15 offensive rebounds that led to 14 second- chance points; Eastside finished with only two second- chance points.
The board battle was a big concern for Damron heading into the game.
“I wasn’t concerned about Surry’s first shot. I was concerned about Surry’s second, third and fourth shots,” the Eastside coach said.
EXPERIENCE RACKS UP POINTS
The veteran Surry County squad, which includes six seniors, showed its experience.
Palmer finished with a team-high 16 points, Slade had 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Monte Pope added 14 points and four assists.
Powers, with a game-high 22 points, was the only Spartans player to finish in double-figure scoring. Chris Swann scored nine points and had 10 rebounds in his final game in an Eastside uniform.