BUFORD — The East Hall girls have had no time to listen to the naysayers. The only expectations they care about are the ones coming from inside their own locker room after an up-and-down regular season that has given way to the Region 7-AAA tournament.
That attitude seems to have worked better than anyone could have imagined.
Following Saturday’s upset win of No. 3 Banks County, sixth-seeded East Hall pulled another shocker on Monday behind six 3-pointers from Chelsea Dale and her season-high 22 points for a 73-49 victory against No. 2 seed North Hall in the tournament semifinals at Buford High.
With the victory, East Hall (14-13) is assured a home game when it opens the postseason Friday, regardless of the outcome of the 7-AAA championship game. The Lady Vikings face Buford for the Region 7-AAA title at 7 p.m. tonight in Buford.
“This feels amazing,” said Dale, who popped three long-range shots in both the second and third quarters. “This is exactly what we’ve worked so hard for all season.”
Down by a point midway through the second quarter, Dale knocked down consecutive 3-pointers. Jatasia Bailey (21 points, seven rebounds) also hit a pair of 3-pointers in the second quarter for the Lady Vikings, who led by 10 at the half and 17 points after three quarters.
Despite the overall long-range success shooting the ball, East Hall missed its first seven attempts behind the 3-point line.
“We’ve really started to find our identity as a team and grown together,” said East Hall coach Justin Wheeler, who said a comeback win against Fannin County to end the regular season changed his team’s direction, along with improving its seeding one spot to No. 6 for the 7-AAA tournament.
Only four East Hall players scored against North Hall. Jenny Edwards chipped in 19 points, while Ashlyn Ellison had 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Sydney Cleveland paced North Hall with 14 points, while her younger sister Sadie Cleveland scored nine for North Hall (18-9).
With the loss, North Hall faces Dawson County in the third-place game at 4 p.m. today in Buford. The Lady
Trojans will open the playoffs Friday on the road.
The story of the night, though, was the continuation of East Hall’s vast improvement since the regular season. Despite trailing by double digits against Fannin County to wrap up the regular season, it pulled together in the second half for a double-digit win.
That momentum clearly carried over to tournament play. East Hall’s playoff-qualifying win Saturday was against Banks County, who earned a 30-point victory against the Lady Vikings in one of the regular season meetings.
East Hall knows it will be a tall task against Buford in the region championship games, but has yet to shy away from a challenge during its 7-AAA tournament run.
DAWSON COUNTY BOYS 65, EAST HALL 55: As soon as the final second ticked off the clock during the semifinal win in Buford, Tigers senior Cameron Millholland was already thinking about playing again in front of the home crowd in
Dawsonville when the Class AAA playoffs open Saturday.
Millholland put up a game-high 20 points, while Levi Whitmire scored 11 as the Tigers (21-6) broke the game open early in the third quarter.
“We have an amazing home atmosphere for our basketball games,” said Millholland. “The entire student section is packed — community packs in to support us and it’s just an amazing atmosphere.”
However, before opening the postseason, Dawson County has a chance to win a region championship at 8:30 tonight against Buford at Buford.
For Dawson County coach Thad Burgess, this has been a dream season and something that wasn’t expected, in his eyes, after graduating all five starters from last year’s squad. And the Tigers coach likes his chances in today’s championship game for the 7-AAA title.
Dawson County’s only losses in the past 15 outings were by two against East Hall in overtime in the regular season and two points against Buford. Dawson County has now won 5 of its past 7 against East Hall, according to Burgess.
“I loved how we stayed in the game all night against East Hall,” Burgess said. “I thought we played tremendous on defense and did a great job of holding East Hall to one shot on each possession all night.”
And Burgess is also pumped, just like his players, about playing back in Dawsonville during the playoffs.
“I don’t think there’s a better home crowd in all of the state than what we have in Dawson County,” Burgess said. “We’ll have it packed in on Saturday night.”
Tied 40-40 in the third quarter, Millholland and Lucas Pain both knocked down 3-pointers for the Tigers, who went on an 8-0 run during the latter half of the third quarter to build a cushion over the Vikings.
Pain, who scored 13 for the Tigers, hit all four free throws in the final minute to close out the win.
Leading the way for East Hall (15-12), Kyvon Davenport scored 19 points and Jacquen Hopkins finished with 11.
In the third-place game, East Hall faces White County at 5:30 today in Buford.
BUFORD BOYS 63, WHITE COUNTY 55: D’Marcus Simonds proved the deciding factor for the Wolves with his 24 points in the 7-AAA semifinals at Buford. Tied 16-16 early in the second quarter, Simonds started a run with an inside basket, followed by a 3-pointer the next trip down the court.
With the win, Buford hosts Dawson County for the region title at 8:30 tonight. White County faces East Hall in the third-place game at 5:30 p.m. today in Buford.
Connecticut signee Rakim Lubin finished with 18 for the Wolves, four of his points on a 10-2 run to open the fourth quarter. Early in the fourth period, the Wolves also scored on a basket from Simonds, a 3-pointer by Montgomery VanGorder and a dunk by Lubin.
Buford led 8-0 early in the game before White County rallied back to score the next nine points. The Warriors’ biggest lead of the game was 15-9 on a 3-pointer by Bradley Hurst.
Spencer Adams was White County’s leading scorer with 18 points, and Hurst finished with 11.
Trailing by 10 in the fourth quarter, White County tried to chip away with back-to-back baskets from Adams.
Buford countered with a Matt McMorris basket to take the lead back to 59-50. Jordan Egerton had White County’s final basket on a 3-pointer with 1:05 remaining in the game.
BUFORD GIRLS 47, DAWSON COUNTY 40: Camille Anderson scored 16 and hit all four free throw attempts for the Lady Wolves in the 7-AAA tournament semifinals at Buford. With the win, Buford faces East Hall in the tournament championship game at 7 tonight in Buford.
Bree Horrocks finished with 15 points for the Lady Wolves.
Dawson County was paced by Ashley Parker’s 13 points and 12 points by Sheyenne Seabolt. Karlie Bearden finished with nine points for the Lady Tigers. Dawson County faces North Hall in the third-place game at 4 p.m. today.