Lavoy Hill didn’t start the game for East Hall in its 57-49 overtime win against region rival North Hall Tuesday night, but he certainly finished it.
With East Hall ahead by four late in the extra period, Kylan Curry went to the free throw line with a chance to push the lead higher. Curry was off on the shot, but Hill managed to grab the rebound, forcing another foul.
He hit his first attempt from the charity stripe, and after missing the second, East Hall’s Aaron Thomas grabbed another offensive rebound and dished it back to Hill, who put it right back up and in, with a foul. This time, Hill was perfect on the free throw that extended the Vikings lead to eight and all but ended the game in East Hall’s favor.
“This is a kid who hasn’t gotten a lot of minutes this year, but we’ve been putting him in and he’s been working his way up,” East Hall coach Seth Thompson said. “Lavoy Hill came in and did a great job. He gave us great minutes. He was a key for us winning tonight. I’m so proud of him, because he didn’t get a lot of minutes at the beginning of the season and has hung with us and just showed his heart tonight and really did a great job.”
Hill finished the game with eight points — including five in overtime — and a couple of key offensive boards. The Vikings (4-3, 1-0 Region 7-3A) were led by Kylan Curry, who scored 18 on the night. Senior Jay Rucker only had eight points in the game, but he added seven blocked shots and a steal in a dominant defensive effort.
The Trojans (2-3, 0-1) got 11 points from Drew Faulkner and 10 from Daniel Jackson.
The game was a defensive battle from the beginning. Neither team saw many clean looks early on, and not even open shots seemed to be falling for either squad.
Rucker was dominant as a rim protector in the opening frame, rejecting four North Hall shot attempts in the first eight minutes, including back-to-back blocks on Jackson on the same possession.
“He can block shots from anywhere,” Thompson said. “… He changes the game for us. He makes us a better team, and his effort was really high.”
East Hall’s strong defensive performance allowed the team to hold a two-point advantage after one quarter, but the Vikings still struggled to pull away.
A pair of goal tending calls against Rucker got the Trojans back to within a point early in the second frame, but a flurry of three makes from Curry brought the Vikings out of the offensive rut and kept them ahead on the scoreboard.
“Taking big shots for my team, I’m just helping them out,” Curry said. “And they tell me to go with it, so I go with it. They get me going.”
East Hall briefly looked like it would take command of the game, but a 5-0 run from the Trojans to end the half brought North Hall to within a point going into the break.
Both teams brought the same high level of defense into the third quarter, with neither managing to find any room until late in the frame. But a timely 7-0 run from the Vikings gave them a bit of separation as they carried a four-point lead into the final eight minutes of regulation.
North Hall stayed locked down defensively for the entirety of the fourth period, and a 3-pointer followed by a layup from Luke Volle on consecutive possessions put the Trojans on top by two points, drawing chants of “Volle” from the North Hall student section.
But when East Hall needed a basket most, it turned to its playmakers in Curry and Rucker, and the duo delivered. After driving toward the basket, Curry dished the ball back to Rucker who buried a mid-range jumper to tie things up and send the game to overtime.
“(Rucker) and Kylan, they’re two of our seniors, and they’re two really good players, really good leaders, great kids, and they executed exactly like we drew it up,” Thompson said.
The teams exchanged buckets to start the extra period, but East Hall locked down defensively from there. One more Rucker block and some timely offensive rebounding from Hill were enough to give the Vikings their first region win of the year.
“This is a great gift we got tonight, because it prepares us for the crazy region tournament game that we could eventually have here,” Thompson said. “I’m really happy with this win. There’s things we’ve got to work on, but nevertheless, I like to get out of here with a W.”
NORTH HALL GIRLS 51, EAST HALL 45: Maci Gillespie scored 11 points and grabbed six steals as North Hall fought back from a two-point, halftime deficit to get the win at home against East Hall.
After jumping out to an early lead over the Vikings, things appeared to take a turn for the worse when the Trojan forward Grace Hollifield, who scored seven quick points to start the game, went down with an apparent ankle injury. North Hall coach Kristi House said after Hollifield was forced out of the game, the team turned to Gillespie’s leadership to keep things on track.
“Maci came over to the sideline and said how is Grace,” House said. “And I said ‘She said for you to take over.’”
Gillespie seemed to take the message to heart. After falling into a two-point hole heading into halftime, she led the charge as the Trojans came back to outscore East Hall by seven in a clutch third quarter performance.
Hollifield was eventually able to come back into the game, and played a key role in locking things down defensively.
“It’s always a battle with East Hall,” House said. “We know that coming in. It’s always really good basketball games against some of their closest friends. We’re just happy to come out on top.”