OAKWOOD – Two good looks. That’s all any coach could want when needing one shot to either win or tie a game at the buzzer.
With less than eight seconds to play against East Hall, Gainesville got two open looks at game-tying 3-pointers, but both failed to fall and the Vikings escaped with a 78-77 win in the Lanierland Tournament semifinals Wednesday at West Hall High.
East Hall (5-2) will play North Hall in the boys finals at 7:30 tonight at West Hall.
A win for Gainesville, which trailed by as many as 19 points in the third quarter, would have been team’s second double-digit comeback of the tournament.
“We knew they were coming,” East Hall coach Joe Dix said. “They came last game (against West Hall) and any coached team will fight to the end.”
Gainesville (7-3) fought to the end despite the absence of its coach, who was ejected in the third quarter after receiving two consecutive technical fouls for arguing with the officials.
“It’s always hard not being out there,” Cottrell said. “You always want to be out there with your team, but I trust the guys and I trust my coaching staff.”
With Cottrell gone from the sidelines, and trailing 58-41, the Red Elephants went on a 15-0 run to cut the deficit to four points.
Leading the comeback was Ke’Odric Sadler, who finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds, seven of which were on the offensive side of the floor.
“They got fired up and we talked about that,” Dix said. “We knew they were about to come at us.”
Seeing his 19-point lead shrink to one with less than five minutes to play, Dix called a timeout to refocus the Vikings.
Coming out of the timeout, Kymon Woods found a wide-open Dre Perry, who hit a 3-pointer right in front of the Vikings’ bench to boost the lead to four points.
Perry, who finished with 12 points, hit another 3 from the exact same spot during the Vikings next possession to give East Hall a 69-63 lead.
“The senior made plays,” Dix said. “They were two big ones. Those were big because they had us out of our wits.”
East Hall maintained its lead thanks to the play of Woods, who scored four of his 15 points in the fourth quarter. Woods’ points were augmented by eight rebounds, three steals and two steals.
Despite the play of Woods and Joshua Chapman, who finished with a game-high 19 points, East Hall had no answer for Gainesville’s A.J. Johnson.
Saddled with three fouls early in the game, Johnson scored 10 of his 15 points in fourth quarter and 14 of his 15 points in the second half.
“A.J. just took over,” Dix said.
Although Johnson’s play inside gave the Vikings trouble, the Red Elephants inability to convert on their free throws allowed East Hall to escape with a win. Gainesville went 9-for-17 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter and it shot just 51 percent from the line for the game.
Conversely, East Hall made 6 of 11 free throws in the fourth quarter. Two of those
misses came late in the fourth and allowed Gainesville its chances to tie the game.
“Those were two good teams out there,” Cottrell said. “Both played really hard and I’m proud of the way my guys fought through adversity.”
Dix echoed Cottrell’s sentiments, and is glad his team is one win away from a Lanierland title.
“We’re excited,” Dix said of playing for the championship. “Only our seniors have a Lanierland championship, it’s brand new for the other guys.
“Hopefully we can handle the pressure better than we did tonight.”
Gainesville plays Flowery Branch at 4:30 p.m. today in the third-place game.