The defensive end of the floor is a coach’s pulpit.
Most coaches — good coaches — don’t preach outscoring an opponent, but stopping one from scoring.
Players take issue with that because defense isn’t the pretty part of the game, it’s the grunt work. It doesn’t take skill to play defense, it takes heart.
Coaches focus on it, however, because it’s the part of the game that can be controlled.
Could the East Hall boys control the fact that they went 11-of-24 from the field in the first half of their first round region tournament game? No, but the Vikings could control the fact they allowed Pickens to score 27 points (to their 28) in that same half.
The Vikings’ shots weren’t falling and their defense was subpar — the two coinciding isn’t coincidental.
It’s said that the best offense is a good defense, and that was proved in the Vikings’ game against Pickens. When they picked up the intensity on the defensive end — to the tune of allowing only 10 third-quarter points — their offense saw a dramatic improvement as well, outscoring Pickens by 20.
The seminfinals and finals of this year’s Region 7-AAA Tournament weren’t offensive showcases, which was a letdown I’m sure for those who paid good money to see one.
It was instead proof that the region houses what are arguably some of the best coaches in the state.
When Peyton Robertson opened her team’s game against Gainesville with eight of Chestatee’s 11 first-quarter points, Gainesville coach Manson Hill didn’t ask his team why they had only scored eight themselves.
He instead demanded a better defensive effort, the result being: Chestatee didn’t hit another field goal until the five-minute mark of the third quarter, and Robertson didn’t score from the field again until just under two minutes to go in the game.
Oh, and Gainesville won by 20 points because once the defense started producing, the offense followed suit.
The North Hall boys held a West Hall team fresh off a 100-point performance to their lowest point total of the season (47), allowing only seven points in the first quarter.
It should also be noted that the Spartans returned the favor, holding North Hall to its lowest point total as well (37).
The shots weren’t falling; neither was going to outscore the other, so the coaches urged their teams to control what they could: defense.
In North Hall’s third-place game against Flowery Branch, the Trojans truly did put on a team defense clinic in the last 20 seconds of regulation.
They didn’t have the height to contest an Ishmael Hollis shot, nor did they have the individual quickness needed to contend one-on-one with the likes of Rashad Tate, Josh Barrett and Brian Welchel — all incredible offensive threats in that they can slash and shoot.
As a team, however, the five on the floor had all the tools necessary to keep Flowery Branch from hitting what would have been a game-winning shot, including a block on a Barrett layup attempt by freshman Kanler Coker, who had gotten to Barrett out of helpside.
After his girls had closed out on their second straight region title, Hill said that he preaches defense, hustle and teamwork because those are the only three things that night-in and night-out can be controlled.
His senior center Madison Strickland, who was coming off a game in which she was the second leading scorer, has bought in. She only scored four points in the title win against East Hall, but had six blocked shots.
Oh, and in the nightcap, the boys’ region title game, a Gainesville team that on Jan. 6 held a then- No. 3 ranked Franklin County team — that included a healthy Georgia signee in DeMario Mayfield — to just 39 points (the Lions lowest point total of the season), held West Hall to 46 – one-point below the 47 North Hall held them to.
The teams in Region 7-AAA heed the warnings of their good coaches, control what they can control and, in doing so, no matter the stature of the team they’re facing, or the athleticism of the person they’re guarding, could control their first-round opponents in the state playoffs.