CARTERSVILLE — The East Hall High basketball team is heading to the Class AAA state quarterfinals.
Kiante Young made a layup with 5.3 seconds to go, and the Vikings (24-6) survived a last gasp 3-point shot by Cartersville’s Dominique Richards to escape with a 73-71 victory over the Purple Hurricanes at The Storm Center Tuesday in Cartersville.
With the win, East Hall advances to face Hart County at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday at Mount Zion High in Jonesboro.
Young and senior Ken Wise led the Vikings in scoring with 14.
"I think we played really well in the first half, but Cartersville started making shots in the second half and we stopped taking care of the ball," East Hall coach Joe Dix said. "Even though Cartersville made a big run, our kids did a great job of staying in the game.
"(On Young’s layup) he was an option when we went to the basket, and Kiante caught Cartersville’s kids watching the ball and he was able to get open. It looked like Cartersville got a good look at the end, though. I thought the shot was going in."
Cartersville (15-7) led 10-9 midway through the first quarter before East Hall ripped off a 16-2 run to take a 27-16 lead after the opening eight minutes. The Vikings were still up 47-29 with 58 seconds to go in the first half, but Chris Palmore made a free throw, and Davin Knowles made a layup along with a 3-pointer to get the Canes back to within 47-35 at halftime.
"Scoring the last six points of the half was very big," Cartersville coach Dennis Godfrey said. "It gave us a lot of momentum going into the second half. We came out a little too apprehensive and got staggered, but we came back in the third quarter."
East Hall led 53-42 with 5:49 left in the third quarter when Cartersville made its run, scoring 13 straight points to take a 55-53 lead. The Canes ended the quarter on a 21-6 burst, outscoring the Vikings 28-12 in the frame to own a 63-59 lead heading into the fourth period. Richards led the charge for the Canes, scoring 13 of his game-high 21 points in the third quarter.
"I told the kids at halftime they were in a backyard brawl," Godfrey said. "I told them to just go out and play and do what they needed to do. We started playing better defensively and when you outscore a team like East Hall 28-12 in a quarter, it shows what kind of team you have."
East Hall battled back itself in the early part of the fourth quarter, grabbing a 69-65 lead with 5:09 to go in the game on a basket by Young.
However, four straight points by Palmore tied the game at 69 with 4:01 showing on the clock.
The teams traded baskets, then Cartersville was charged with offensive foul, giving the Vikings the ball with about two minutes left. East Hall ran the clock down and called a timeout with 15.7 seconds to go.
Following the timeout, the Vikings took the ball to the hoop and found Young open under the basket. Young went up and under the rim, making the layup to put East Hall up 73-71 with 5.3 seconds remaining.
"I haven’t seen a team run the clock down like that in a long time," said Godfrey. "I thought they might want to get the last shot of the game and get out of here with a win. However, I thought we should roll the dice and try to get a stop instead of coming out to get them. I was worried if we came out on them, (Trevor Bishop) would get open and make a 3-pointer.
"I think we did the right thing staying back and I think East Hall’s decision to hold the ball was a sign of respect for how hard we played them."
Following a Cartersville timeout, the Canes inbounded the ball to Palmore, who dribbled upcourt and found Richards in the right corner. Richards took a pair of dribbles and launched a 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded, but his shot bounced up and off the rim, sending East Hall into the Elite Eight and leaving Cartersville’s fans in stunned silence.
"This is a different team we have this year, but we’re in the Elite Eight," said Dix. "The last two seasons, we’ve lost the Player of the Year in our classification. But these kids understand what it takes to win and they did that."
Young and Ken Wise led East Hall with 14 points apiece, Josh Chapman had 11 and Bishop finished with nine for the Vikings.
Richards led Cartersville with 21 points, Palmore added 17 and Donald Rucker pitched in 11 for the Canes in the loss.