Effective shooters tend to have three things in common: a quick release, good range and a short memory. East Hall’s Joshua Hampton put all three on display in abundance on Saturday.
The junior guard lit up the East Hall gym and the rival Red Elephants, leading the Vikings to an 81-58 win and a three-game season sweep of Gainesville.
One night after one of his worst shooting nights of the season, Hampton turned in one of his best, scoring 20 of his game-high 22 points in the first half while making six of eight 3-pointers.
“I couldn’t hit anything (Friday night),” said Hampton, who was 1 of 11 from the field, but 9 for 9 on free throws in a win over Fannin County on Friday. “Tonight, they were going in during warm-ups. After I hit my third (3-pointer), I knew it was going to be a good night for me.”
Despite a cold night from the field just 24 hours earlier, East Hall coach Joe Dix wasn’t surprised by Hampton’s outburst.
“I kept telling him to shoot it Friday night,” Dix said. “That what he is, he’s a shooter. He’s got the ability to go off, and he went off in the first half tonight.”
Behind the Hampton-led 3-point barrage, the Vikings (18-5, 8-0 Region 8A-AA) led 47-24 at halftime and never allowed the Red Elephants (15-7, 8-2 8B-AAA) to get closer than 15 in the final two quarters.
“I thought (East Hall) played outstanding,” Gainesville coach Todd Cottrell said. “They shot the ball very well, and it’s hard to match two for three. I thought we were playing pretty well in the first half, good enough to be in the game, and you look up and we’re down by a bunch.”
The Red Elephants did their best to keep pace early and held the lead for much of the first quarter. They shot better than 50 percent from the field in the first half, but were hurt by 14 turnovers and poor shooting from the free throw line.
Not to mention the Vikings’ scorching touch from outside.
Of East Hall’s 22 first-quarter points, 18 came by way of 3-pointers. Before cooling off after halftime, the Vikings made 10 of their first 17 3-point attempts. They finished 10 of 23 beyond the arc.
Gainesville employed a frenetic full-court press in the second half in an attempt to engineer another long-shot rally.
Comebacks are nothing new to the Red Elephants this year; they orchestrated a 20-plus point rally in the fourth quarter against West Hall during the Lanierland tournament in December and nearly repeated the feat two nights later against East Hall.
But 3-point shooting played a big role each time and Gainesville couldn’t find the mark outside on Saturday. The Red Elephants finished 3 for 13 on 3s.
A.J. Johnson accounted for one of those when his trey cut the lead to 19 points at the end of the third quarter. Gainesville then scored the first four points of the final stanza before East Hall’s Kymon Woods halted any hopes of a comeback with a three-point play.
It was also Woods who punctuated the win, fighting through a foul for a powerful slam dunk in the final minutes. Woods finished with 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting.
Shaquan Cantrell led Gainesville with 16 points, while Ke’Odric Sadler scored 12.
Both teams step back into region play to wrap up the regular season with two games next week. Gainesville, which had a five-game winning streak snapped, will host No. 8 Monroe Area on Tuesday and Johnson on Thursday.
East Hall, winners of six straight and 11 of its last 12, will host Rabun County on Tuesday and Union County on Friday.
The Vikings have clinched a tie for the No. 1 seed from 8-AA North and need one win to secure the spot.
EAST HALL GIRLS 52, GAINESVILLE 37: Behind 31 combined points from the dynamic junior duo of Jasmine Jenkins and Morgan Jackson, the Lady Vikings took the season series from the Lady Red Elephants, winning Saturday for the second time in three tries.
After a tight first quarter, Jenkins drilled back-to-back 3s midway through the second to give East Hall (14-9, 4-4 Region 8A-AA) some breathing room.
Her third 3-pointer of the game came just before the buzzer at the end of the third quarter, giving the Lady Vikings a 15-point cushion.
Jenkins finished with 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting, while Jackson scored a game-high 16.
Rebecca Webster led Gainesville (12-11, 7-3 8B-AAA) with 15 points.
East Hall will host Class AA’s No. 5 Rabun County on Tuesday, while Gainesville will host Monroe Area. Tip-off for both games is 6 p.m.