East Hall girls coach Joey Rider couldn't fault his team's effort, even though the shot the Lady Vikings needed so desperately didn't fall in the final seconds of Tuesday's 44-43 loss to Lovett in the second round of the Class AA playoffs in Gainesville.
"I thought we battled all night long extremely well," Rider said. "Lovett is an extremely talented team, but we kept them within distance all night, even though we didn't shoot as well as we would have liked."
With the loss, East Hall's season is finished.
Trailing by one and in possession of the ball with only 15 seconds left to play, the Lady Vikings took four shots that would have taken the lead, including an open look on a lay-up with only five seconds remaining.
Even after that miss, East Hall would take one more 3-pointer that hit off the rim, which the Lady Lions rebounded.
"Any other day with four shots to win it, East Hall would have made it," Lovett coach Liz Kennedy said. "They have a great team here at East Hall.
"It was just one of those nights that the ball bounced our way."
The Lady Vikings rallied from a six-point deficit in the fourth quarter on the back of Morgan Jackson's clutch shooting.
Trailing 42-36 with four minutes left to play, Jackson (19 points) hit a pair of free throws for East Hall, and followed with a 3-pointer less than a minute later to draw within a basket of Lovett.
Following two offensive turnovers by Lovett, Jasmine Jenkins went up and hit two free throws to put East Hall ahead 43-42, its first lead since it was 7-6 after Jenkins hit a 3-pointer late in the first quarter.
Jenkins, a Vanderbilt University signee, finished with 10 points in her final game with the Lady Vikings.
Trailing 43-42 and coming out of a timeout with :48 seconds left in the game, Lovett set up a play to get the ball in the hands of 6-foot-1 junior forward Sydney Umeri.
Rider said that his Lady Vikings had it defended well, sensing what was coming.
Once Umeri got the ball in her hands, she turned and hit a midrange jumper with a defender playing tight for what was the game's final basket with :18 left to play.
"Give her credit for making that shot," Rider said. "Most girls wouldn't have been able to make it."
Lovett's Tatianna Jackson finished tied for a game-high 19 points. She scored 17 of her points in the first half, including a 3-pointer with 1:45 remaining to build a 24-17 lead.
The Lady Lions built their biggest lead of the night in the third quarter on a pair of free throws by Christian Johnson (four points, 15 rebounds) to take a 28-20 lead.
Despite the big deficit, the Lady Vikings mounted the first of their two second-half rallies late in the third quarter.
Down by eight points, East Hall would go on a 10-2 scoring run that Jackson completed with a 3-point play at the free throw line after a basket in the lane. Prior to that, Jackson also knocked down a 3-pointer.
Lovett built up another lead early in the fourth quarter with one of Taylor Brown's (11 points) three 3-pointers with 5:10 left in the game to take a 40-34 lead.
East Hall's Jackson got the team's ensuing rally kicked off immediately following that with another basket and foul shot to complete a 3-point play.
With three players on the floor most of the game that stood 6-foot, or taller, Lovett won the rebounding battle 32-24.
With the win, Lovett ended a streak of three consecutive seasons losing in the second round of the playoffs.
The Lady Lions will face Model in the state quarterfinals at 4 p.m. Friday at the Northwest Georgia Trade Center in Dalton.