ATLANTA — With a late-season surge fueled by a young roster, East Hall’s girls showed they have a bright future ahead of them.
On Monday, however, the Lady Vikings ran into a team more capable of contending for a championship in the present.
Junior Asia Durr, the top-ranked player in the state, scored a game-high 24 points and teammate Jasmine Carter added 16 to lead defending state champion St. Pius X to a 55-39 victory over the Lady Vikings on Monday at the Lady Golden Lions’ gymnasium in Atlanta.
“We played a different (kind of) team tonight ... different basketball I.Q. combined with (good) athleticism,” East Hall coach Justin Wheeler said.
“You put those together, they’re reading your eyes and baiting you into passes that you usually make. They look like our player might be open, but they want you to throw that ball because as soon as you throw it, they’re going to steal it.”
East Hall's season is finished. The Lady Golden Lions, winners of their last 17 games, advance to the state quarterfinals to face Morgan County.
Durr scored 10 of her points in the opening period to propel the Lady Golden Lions (27-3) out to a 17-5 advantage going into the second quarter.
East Hall (15-15) primarily settled for outside shots and struggled to take care of the ball.
Wheeler said the team’s inexperience in the playoffs showed, especially in that opening quarter.
“We got a little bit erratic,” Wheeler said. “Our eyes got a little bit big. We made some turnovers that we haven’t been making. We’ve been pushing the ball a little more.”
The Lady Vikings did a better job of slowing down the Lady Golden Lions’ offense in the second and third periods, but couldn’t generate enough offense of their own to narrow the deficit to less than eight points at any time after the opening period.
Jatasia Bailey and Chelsea Dale knocked down 3-pointers for East Hall early in the second quarter to narrow the gap to 19-11, but the Lady Vikings were held scoreless for several minutes afterwards while St. Pius X went on a 6-0 run. Bailey knocked down another 3 with 45 seconds remaining in the period to cut the score to 25-14 going into halftime.
Dale hit another 3 at the 6:40 mark in the third quarter to cut the gap to 26-17, but that was the last time the Lady Vikings trailed by single digits. St. Pius X held East Hall to a single point on a free throw over the next 6:09 of play, and used the opportunity to extend its advantage.
Carter quickly answered Dale’s 3-pointer with a pair of baskets inside, and Durr finished a 3-point play at the free-throw line with 1:46 remaining in the third quarter to pad the St. Pius X lead to 35-18.
“She (scored) 24, that’s her (season) average,” Wheeler said of Durr. “Carter, she went over her average. She averages 13 and she sat out a quarter, so she played really well.”
The Lady Golden Lions’ lead hovered above 20 points for the majority of the fourth quarter.
Durr had nine points in the final period to put the finishing touches on the victory.
Dale finished with a team-high 11 points for East Hall.
“It gives me a lot of hope (for the future), but with that said we wanted to win this year, we really did,” Wheeler said. “I hope we just take away our mistakes and look at them and see how we can get better in the future.
“For the seniors, I hope they enjoyed every moment of (the season). I’m so glad that all of them gave the effort they gave me — Natalie Winters, Eboni Burce and Erika Lopez. I had them in mind, it being their last game, and I appreciate everything they did.”