Morgan Jackson said she didn’t feel as good as she thought she would after clinching a spot in the state tournament.
For the No. 1 team out of the North subregion, qualifying for state was a goal, but just one of many that include a region tournament championship and a run in the state tournament.
Thursday night, it took everything the Lady Vikings had to win 46-43 against Dawson County in a game that nearly slipped through their fingers and stopped a stellar season short.
East Hall (23-3) will play Union County, the lone subregion team to have defeated the Lady Vikings, at 4 p.m. on Friday at Hart County High with a spot in the region title game on the line.
Fellow East Hall senior Jasmine Jenkins, who said Union County was quickly becoming a rival, summed up the feeling after the tough game.
“I’m happy we made it,” she said, “but I know that if we play like that again we won’t make it any further than the region semifinals and the first round of state.”
But it’s still a win.
“Survive and advance,” East Hall coach Joey Rider said. “We played hard, but we didn’t play smart.
“I hope it is a wake-up call for us.”
North No. 5 Dawson County (13-14), a team that the Lady Vikings had defeated by a combined 35 points in two regular season meetings, rallied from a 29-19 halftime deficit to get within one at 44-43 on a 3-pointer by point guard Kim Wallace (nine points) with 1:55 remaining.
“We created some chances, we got shots and they just didn’t fall,” Dawson County coach Steve Sweat said. “Our kids, they wanted it.”
Jenkins (14 points) made sure they didn’t get it, hitting two free throws with three seconds remaining after grabbing a rebound on the Lady Tigers chance at a go-ahead layup.
Carly Gilreath led all scorers with 23 points for Dawson County. The Lady Tigers’ season is now complete.
Jackson, who scored a team-high 17 points, including four of the team’s eight 3-pointers in the first half, was just glad it was over.
“It’s over with,” she said. “We’ve just got to focus on the future now.”
UNION COUNTY GIRLS 34, JACKSON COUNTY 29: The Lady Panthers didn’t make a field goal until midway through the second quarter, but the defense and senior Rebecka Merritt led the North’s No. 3 team over the South’s No. 2 as Union County clinched a playoff spot Thursday afternoon at East Hall High.
“It’s a big win for us,” Union County coach David Tucker said. “Rebecka came up big for us like she was supposed to.”
Merritt led all scorers with 16 points, including four free throws late in the fourth to seal the win for the Lady Panthers (21-6).
Union County managed just one point in the first quarter and fell behind 9-1 early in the second before rallying to get within three at 13-10 by halftime.
The Lady Panthers took control on an 18-2 run in the third quarter, a run which included four Union County 3-pointers, and led the rest of the way.
Mason Garland led Jackson County (11-5) with 11 points. Jackson County’s season is now over.
RABUN COUNTY GIRLS 75, HART COUNTY 42: The Lady Wildcats wasted no time in clinching a state playoff berth, taking a double-digit lead after the first quarter and scoring consistently the rest of the way on Thursday at East Hall High in the Region 8-AA tournament quarterfinals.
Krista Dixon led all scorers with 21 for North No. 2 Rabun County (22-4), Savannah Reeves added 10 points and a total of 10 players scored for the Lady Wildcats, who will play South No. 1 North Oconee in the semifinals at 7 p.m. Friday at Hart County High.
Maya Morrison led South No. 3 Hart County (13-13) with nine points. The Lady Bulldogs’ season is complete.
NORTH OCONEE GIRLS 53, BANKS COUNTY 41: The Lady Leopards refused to go quietly, but, despite 17 points from Deasha Beasley and 13 from Madison Franklin, North No. 4 Banks County’s (15-12) season ended one game short of a state playoff berth Thursday night at East Hall High in the Region 8-AA quarterfinals.
Brooke Hubbard led all scorers with 18 points for state-bound North Oconee, the No. 1 seed out of the South subregion.
North Oconee didn’t make a field goal in the fourth, but scored 17 points on 17 of 25 shooting at the free throw line in the final quarter to seal the win.