Justin Wheeler had a timeout.
In the end, he didn’t need it.
The East Hall girls coach watched junior forward Jenny Edwards dribble in and calmly make a layup in the last 4 seconds to cap a frantic final 82 seconds and complete a 41-40 comeback victory against rival West Hall on Friday night in Oakwood.
“Their defense wasn’t set, so I wanted to see what was about to happen,” Wheeler said. “And I saw Jenny pushing it, and you get Jenny going to the basket, what else (do) you want? She made a little good move, sidestepped it, laid it up. That’s the end of the game.”
West Hall was unable to get a shot off after getting the ball in-bounds as the clock expired.
“I was actually kind of shocked that it rolled in,” Edwards said of her game-winner.
The Lady Spartans took a 40-39 lead about 10 seconds earlier on a high-arcing, long two-point basket from freshman Anna McKendree, who tallied a game-high 22 points. That go-ahead shot for West Hall was set up by a steal following McKendree’s trey to cut it to a 39-38 East Hall edge with 34 seconds to go.
Chelsea Dale’s runner rolled around the rim and in with 1:22 remaining as the Lady Vikings took a 38-33 lead after trailing 26-16 in the third quarter. Dale had given East Hall (9-6, 3-3 Region 7-AAA) its first lead since early in the second quarter, 33-30, on her 3-pointer at the 3:50 mark.
“East Hall did a good job. They’re a tough team,” West Hall coach Bryan Richerson said. “We knew they weren’t going to quit. We got ourselves in a hole with some turnovers, not finishing some easy ones. There at the end, they made a play that we knew what (Edwards) was going to do. We knew she was going to take it to the hole. She finished.”
West Hall (5-8, 2-3) didn’t go quietly after falling behind 38-33, starting with a basket by McKendree to cut it back to a three-point margin.
Edwards split a pair of free throws with 42.1 seconds left to push the Vikings’ edge back to 39-35 before McKendree’s final two baskets briefly put the host Spartans ahead. Then came Edwards’ decisive drive.
“That’s just the girls growing up, maturing a little bit,” Wheeler said. “We were down the whole game, and they never got down. Of course, we had our bad plays and you saw a head down every now and then. But for the most part, they kept their heads up, they kept playing.”
Edwards paced East Hall with 16 points, as Dale chipped in 10 and Kylah Mize added six.
Long-distance shots were the name of the game in the first two quarters with 21 of the contest’s first 30 points coming on 3-pointers as West Hall led 16-14 at the half.
“We were down most of the game,” Edwards said. “But we kept good attitudes, and I think that’s what brought us through is we played together.”
Four points from McKendree, four from Meaghan Kelling and two from Macy Passmore accounted for a 10-2 run to start the third quarter and build the Spartans’ lead to 10 points.
The Vikings methodically worked their way back from there, cutting it to 28-24 by the end of the third and tying it 30-all on a Jatasia Bailey 3-pointer with 4:06 to go in the contest.
“I’m proud of our girls,” Richerson said. “They fought. We’re learning. Every step is a learning experience for us. We’re kind of young. We’re not using that as an excuse.”
East Hall visits Gainesville while West Hall plays at Johnson tonight.
EAST HALL BOYS 89, WEST HALL 58: An alley-oop to Kyvon Davenport for a dunk 25 seconds in set the tone for this rivalry matchup.
Davenport’s athleticism on both ends of the court, Triston Cooper’s sharp shooting and the Vikings’ aggressive press gave East Hall a 56-28 lead at the half and an 80-40 edge through three quarters.
Davenport tallied 23 points to lead four Vikings in double figures, and Cooper finished with 18 points, including four 3-pointers. Jacquen Hopkins pitched in 12 points and Tylor Brown had 11 for East Hall.
Esteban Ulloa’s game-high 24 points led the Spartans, with Xzavier Reid adding 10.
East Hall improved to 12-2 overall and 6-0 in Region 7-AAA ahead of tonight’s game at Gainesville, a rematch of the Red Elephants’ 73-47 Lanierland semifinal victory Dec. 29.
West Hall fell to 2-11 and 1-4 heading into an away game against unbeaten Johnson tonight.