A third quarter run, a smothering defense, and domination on the boards were all keys to the East Hall boys’ 65-58 road win over Gainesville High on Saturday night.
Earlier in the girls’ game, the Lady Red Elephants held on to beat East Hall 36-30.
Class AA’s No. 4-ranked Vikings (4-0) won their fourth straight road game to start the season, the first time that’s happened under Vikings coach Joseph Dix.
“Rebounding and defense in the second half saved us,” said Vikings junior guard Joshua Hampton, who led all scorers with 17 points. “It feels good to come into someone else's house, and one of our rivals, and beat them.”
With the score tied at 27-27 at halftime, the Vikings went on a 20-11 run aided by a full-court press and defensive rebounding that limited Class AAA’s No. 6-ranked Red Elephants’ (4-1) scoring opportunities.
At one point in the third quarter, East Hall led 40-29 before Gainesville closed the quarter trailing 47-38.
“(At halftime), we talked about finishing our opportunities,” Dix said. “We were 2-for-23 in the second quarter, so we were lucky to be tied (going into the half). In the third quarter, we amped it up, made a few shots and held on.
“The kids did well defensively.”
Gainesville pulled to within seven midway through the fourth quarter, but never got any closer. With the Vikings leading 56-47 with 1:40 remaining, the Red Elephants were forced to foul and East Hall made nine of their last 10 free throws to ice the game.
“I thought their defense was outstanding,” Red Elephants coach Todd Cottrell said. “And they killed us on the boards. They exposed our weaknesses and that’s what good teams do.
“But I’m proud of our guys’ effort, they played hard. We didn’t execute like we should have, but their defensive rotation was faster, they beat us in rebounding and they made their free throws, and that’s basketball.”
Chris Orr scored nine points, Kymon Woods had eight points, and Dre Perry and Brian Edwards each chipped in seven for the Vikings, who next play host to North Hall on Friday.
The Red Elephants were led by freshman guard Deshaun Watson’s triple-double (10 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists). A.J. Johnson had 13 points and 11 rebounds and Javez Warren had nine points and five assists.
Justin Cantrell added nine points and Mike Norman scored seven.
Gainesville plays Wesleyan Tuesday.
LADY RED ELEPHANTS 36, LADY VIKINGS 30: No. 8 Gainesville outscored No. 4 East Hall 14-1 in the first quarter and the Lady Vikings didn’t make their first field goal until 4:32 in the second quarter, and that was enough to seal a Red Elephants win.
For the Lady Red Elephants (3-3), it was their third game in a row against a top 10 team, and they went 2-1 in that stretch. No. 1 Wesleyan is next for Gainesville Tuesday in Norcross.
“We believe big games help us grow up a lot,” Gainesville coach Manson Hill said. “We lost a big lead, but we learned some things. Whether things went bad, someone made a big play.”
The Lady Red Elephants led 33-22 with 2:26 remaining, but Taylor Bishop’s 3-pointer off a Gainesville turnover made the score 33-30 with 24.5 seconds left. Gainesville responded when Rebecca Webster hit one of two free throws to make it 34-30, then East Hall’s Jasmine Jenkins — who led all scorers with 15 points — missed a 3-point attempt and the Lady Red Elephants held on.
“The biggest thing is we showed character and that will take us a long way,” Lady Vikings coach Joey Rider said. “Offensively, we didn’t execute well and we shot poorly on top of that. But we did have a chance at the end, so I give the girls credit for not giving up. There were some positives to this game, like better defense, which we’ve been harping on lately.
“We’ve just got to execute better on offense, because teams try to take away our transition game because (Jenkins) is so good in the open floor. When that happens, we’ve got to execute the half court and we didn’t do that.”
Webster led Gainesville with 12 points and two blocks, Mikalyn DeFoor scored nine points on 3-for-5 3-point shooting, and Kate Callahan had eight points and six rebounds.
Jackson had six points for East Hall.
NOTE: Dix said 6-foot-5 post Chaz Cheeks, recovering from meniscus surgery, could be ready to play next week.