It wasn’t pretty.
But East Jefferson will take it.
East Jefferson is going to the state championship game for the first time in school history after a hard fought 47-39 victory over Northside Thursdya night in the Class 4A semifinals at Burton Coliseum.
East Jefferson (30-3) will play top-seed Landry -Walker on Saturday at 8 p.m. in the championship game. Landry-Walker beat East Jefferson 60-51 during the regular season in January.
Senior center Curtiss Anderson got East Jefferson going late in the third quarter with a pair of blocked shots that seemed to breathe some life into the Warriors. Up until that point with a minute remaining in the third, East Jefferson had made just seven field goals. But Anderson’s first block led to a baseline jumper by Shaquille Preston and the second led to a 3-point play by Preston. It pushed a 24-23 lead to a 29-23 lead at the end of the third quarter.
Preston, a UT-Chattanooga signee, finished with a game-high xx points. Anderson finished with 12, including an exclamation point dunk with 13.2 seconds left that sealed it.
East Jefferson got off to a sloppy start, making just 3 of 14 field goals in the opening quarter, including 1 of 7 on 3-pointers. The teams were tied 8-8 after one quarter.
But East Jefferson scored the first eight points of the third quarter (a trey by many Nicholas and five free throws) to take a 16-8 lead. Northside went almost five minutes without a point in the quarter, ending its drought on a pair of free throws by Paul McZeal with 3:20 left in the half.
EJ’s shooting didn’t get much better in the second quarter, when they made just 3 of 10 field goals, but it was enough to give the Warriors a 21-15 halftime lead.
But then East Jefferson went on a scoring drought of its own to start the second half.
Northside scored the half’s first eight points, tying it 21-21 on a 3-point play by Gerard Andrus with 4:52 remaining in the third. The Vikings took their first lead since 2-0 on McZeal’s dunk that made it 23-21.
The Warriors didn’t score their first point of the quarter until 2:20 remained when Curtiss Anderson knocked down a free throw.
McZeal finished with 14 points for the Vikings, who finished 22-11.