The first two games between the East Hall and North Hall boys basketball teams this season were down-to-the-wire thrillers befitting these old rivals.
Round 3 was a different story.
The Vikings used a furious third-quarter run to pull away from the shorthanded Trojans 73-54 Tuesday at home in Region 7-AAA play. After beating North Hall 59-51 on Dec. 9, and 56-53 in the Lanierland tournament semifinals, East Hall (12-6, 6-1 region) completed a regular-season sweep of its crosstown foe and stayed one game behind Greater Atlanta Christian in the region standings.
“They’re a good team,” Vikings coach Joe Dix said. “We’ve had two hard-fought games, but we were able to have a little cushion tonight. They’re missing their best player, so you have to take that into account as well.”
Senior guard Evan Easton didn’t dress out for the Trojans (11-9, 4-4 region), but coach Tyler Sanders didn’t make any excuses about being without one of his most productive players.
“We missed him, but we played fine on Friday without him down at Greater Atlanta Christian,” he said. “East Hall just out-hustled us tonight. They outworked us, outplayed us. They just did everything better.
Sanders declined to specify why Easton didn’t play but said he’ll return soon.
The Vikings had four players score in double figures, with junior guard Luke Cooper’s 18 points leading the way. Though East Hall’s trademark full-court press forced 16 turnovers, North Hall kept the game close midway into the third quarter.
Cooper scored the Vikings’ first seven points but picked up a pair of fouls less than two minutes into the game. Trojans senior guard Justin Rabb was whistled for his second infraction about one minute later, but a late first-quarter push gave North Hall a 17-14 lead after the first period.
The Trojans turned it over on their first four possessions of the second quarter, sparking a quick 13-2 East Hall run. The game became momentarily chippy as North Hall cut back into the lead, and officials assessed Cooper a technical foul for yelling in an opposing player’s face after driving to the hoop for a layup.
“We’ve got to keep our head and make the right choices in the right situations,” Dix said. “We have to try to stay away from that kind of stuff, especially in a close game. That can be a killer.”
The Trojans came out of halftime strong, reducing 38-31 deficit to just four points midway through the third quarter. But East Hall closed the period on a 15-4 surge, aided by consecutive 3-pointers from Cooper and senior guard Tony Martinez (12 points).
“We just lost our way for a couple minutes, then they went on one of their traditional East Hall runs,” Sanders said. “We gave up too many layups and too many offensive rebounds, and we missed too many easy layups.”
Junior forward Sedrion Morse scored the Vikings’ final seven points before both coaches inserted their reserves with about a minute to play.
Morse finished with 15 points and seven rebounds, matching Cooper’s output on the boards. Senior forward Mahki Brown recorded a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Senior center Jake Meeler led North Hall with 12 points, while classmate Alden Lewallen grabbed 11 rebounds.
The Vikings and Trojans are trending in different directions heading into the final two weeks of the regular season, and unless they face off in the postseason, East Hall will have made the last statement between the region rivals.
“We needed this one,” Dix said. “I thought we played well, considering we played these guys for the third time.”
EAST HALL GIRLS 54, NORTH HALL 44: Carly Winters and Kylah Mize combined for 40 of their team’s points as the Lady Vikings (12-6, 7-0 Region 7-AAA) stayed atop the region standings.
Mize scored her 1,000th career point on a runner that put East Hall ahead 13-2 with less than two minutes in the first quarter. Officials stopped the game to recognize Mize, who brought the basketball to her mother in the stands.
“It was exciting,” said the senior, who began playing for the Lady Vikings in her sophomore year. “I didn’t think it would come so soon because I missed a year at East Hall, so I didn’t think I was going to get it. It felt good.”
Senior guard Taylor Anne Kelley scored seven of her 15 points in the second quarter to help the Lady Trojans (11-9, 4-4 region) gradually cut the deficit to 26-19 at halftime.
But the Lady Vikings scored the first five points of the third quarter and kept North Hall at bay down the stretch. The Lady Trojans got within single digits only once the rest of the way, when junior guard Tatum McQuillen (11 points, six rebounds) sank a layup to make it 42-33 early in the fourth quarter.
East Hall improved to 2-1 against North Hall this season after winning 56-53 in early December, and losing 56-37 later that month in the Lanierland fifth-place game.