Opposing teams have a tough choice on defense when deciding which of the East Hall girls scoring tandem to stop.
Through the first three quarters, Rabun County focused in on the Lady Vikings' senior guard, Jasmine Jenkins, and forward Morgan Jackson kept East Hall in the game.
In the fourth, Rabun County keyed in on Jackson, and Jenkins shut the door, scoring 13 of her 19 points in the final quarter to lead East Hall to a 56-45 win Friday in Gainesville.
Jackson led all scorers with 20 points.
"This team was going to rise to the occasion," said East Hall coach Joey Rider. "We split with them last year with both games going to overtime, so we knew they were good."
Over the last few years No. 7 East Hall (15-2, 4-0 8-AA North) and No. 1 Rabun County (16-3, 2-2) have developed something of a friendly rivalry.
And with the Lady Vikings and Lady Cats once again looking like top contenders in the Region 8-AA North race, there was little doubt that the first meeting this season would once again be close.
"I thought it was headed to overtime again and then Jasmine hit a couple of late shots to put the game away," said Rabun County coach Deedee Dillard, whose Lady Cats opened the season 15-0 to grab the No. 1 ranking in the coaches poll. "The past few years we've both been in the hunt for the region title, and there's always a lot on the line."
Playing the No. 1-ranked team was a fact that Jenkins didn't know about beforehand, nor did she much care.
"They put their pants on just like everybody else," the senior guard said. "Rabun County is always good - I think we're evenly matched teams."
So evenly matched that neither team could build more than a six-point lead until the final minute of the game, when Jenkins hit two of her six fourth-quarter free throws to put East Hall ahead 51-44.
"Just like Kobe (Bryant) in the NBA, Jenkins was the closer tonight," Rider said.
Near the midway point of the quarter Jenkins had sank a 3-pointer to put the hosts ahead 43-40, less than a minute after senior guard Holly Lester had tied the game on a 3-pointer of her own.
Rabun County got back within one, but the Lady Cats, who were in the lead or tied throughout most of the third quarter, could not get any closer.
East Hall, which won the turnover battle 17-14, outscored Rabun County 23-8 in the final quarter. The Lady Vikings also hit 17 of 22 free throws, while the Lady Cats finished 12 of 16 from the line.
And while the Lady Vikings' double-edged scoring machine once again led the way on offense, it was senior Audrianna Lindsey who stifled Rabun County's top scorer, Krista Dixon, who led the Lady Cats with 12 points.
Grace Rogers added 10 for the team from Tiger.
East Hall remains perfect in the subregion, but will need to defeat Union County (16-3, 3-1) at 6 p.m. Tuesday in Gainesville to take the driver's seat in the subregion with a two-game lead on the rest of the field.
A win over one of the subregion's top teams was a good start.
"Now that we beat Rabun," Jenkins said, "if we stay focused and do what we're supposed to do then we can really control the region."
EAST HALL BOYS 92, RABUN COUNTY 69: J.C. Hampton scored 23, Brian Edwards added 22 and the Vikings (12-4, 4-0 8-AA North) rolled over the Wildcats (14-4, 2-2) on Friday night in Gainesville to extend their winning streak to eight games after opening the season 4-4.
East Hall also kept its undefeated subregion record intact and remains at the top of the 8-AA North standings.
It was East Hall's highest scoring total since a 101-97 win over Chestatee in the Lanierland tournament in December, and four players scored in double figures, including Chris Orr (14) and Hayden Chapman (10).
Rabun County was led by Dillon Bleckley (24 points) and Tanner Plemmons (16).
The Vikings led by just seven after one quarter, but extended the lead to double digits early in the second and didn't let up until the final minutes with the game well in hand.
East Hall returns to the court at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday against Union County in Gainesville.