Everything started on the perimeter for East Hall. By game’s end, the Vikings made plays all over the court in a 95-62 second-round Class AAA playoff victory against visiting Peach County on Saturday night.
East Hall will face Laney, a 68-31 winner against Rockmart, in Tuesday’s state quarterfinals. The host for that game will be determined Sunday when Vikings coach Joe Dix and Laney coach Buck Harris meet for a coin toss.
East Hall (24-5) scored 12 of its first 14 points on 3-pointers in building an early 14-5 edge, then used its defensive pressure and dribble penetration to break the game even further open. After the Vikings’ Kyvon Davenport dunked off a steal, the Region 7-AAA champions led 22-9 through a quarter.
“We came out with some fire. The guys were really kind of quiet and reserved before the game. They had that look in their eye, and I said something about it before the game,” Dix said. “And sure enough, that’s exactly what we had. They were attacking, very aggressive, did a great job of finishing. The press was so good to us. We really got it going.”
That competitive fire was on display not just in the way East Hall played, but also in the Vikings’ response to their big plays. Jacquen Hopkins and Triston Cooper were demonstrative in celebrations of their 3-pointers, as was Davenport after many of his baskets.
Davenport scored 16 of his game-high 31 points in a second quarter, including a trio of dunks in a 34-second span late in the half. East Hall closed the second quarter on a 14-4 run to lead 55-29 going into the half.
East Hall picked up where it left off to start the second half, using another 14-4 spurt to push it to 69-33 and eventually leading by as many as 39 points.
Hopkins, who sparked the Vikings’ quick start with nine first-quarter points, finished with 19 points. Also in double figures were brothers Triston Cooper (4 3-pointers) and Luke Cooper (3 3-pointers) with 13 points apiece.
East Hall finished with 13 3-pointers, including seven in the first half, in the decisive win. Following their early perimeter success, the Vikings attacked inside relentlessly.
“We were shooting the ball well,” Hopkins said. “So they (were) closing out hard on us, so that got us to be able to drive to the basket and get easy buckets for layups.”
Dix was pleased to see his guys not resting on 3-point prowess alone.
“Jacquen and Tylor (Brown) in particular really did a good job of going to the rim and really kind of creating some problems,” Dix said. “When we’re clicking like we were clicking tonight, we’re tough to beat.”
Darrell White paced Peach County with 16 points, as Avery Mitchell pitched in 14 and Jared Johnson added 13. The Trojans finished the season 23-6.
This is the deepest playoff run for East Hall since 2011, its last region championship before this year’s team earned the 7-AAA title.
“I told someone this is the first team I’ve had probably in a couple years that’s playing its best basketball at the end of the year,” Dix said.
Next up is a Laney team (28-1) that is on a 28-game winning streak since dropping its opener to St. Francis. Laney was a Class AA semifinalist in 2014.
Saturday’s win capped a strong two days for East Hall basketball against Peach County after the Lady Vikings poured in 10 3-pointers and defeated the Lady Trojans 71-53 on the road Friday night. East Hall’s girls face the winner of Monday’s Washington County at Calhoun game in the quarterfinals.