Gainesville head coach Todd Cottrell doesn’t remember what he told his team during a timeout midway through the third quarter, but whatever he said worked to perfection.
Trailing East Hall by eight at the time of that timeout the Red Elephants responded to their coach’s message by going on a 13-0 run to close out the period, which propelled them to a 75-69 win over their subregion rivals Saturday at Gainesville High.
“I was pleased with the way the guys battled tonight,” Cottrell said. “There’s a lot of things that we need to get better at, but I like where we’re going.”
One aspect of the game that Gainesville (7-7, 2-1 Region 7B-AAA) doesn’t need to work on is its tenacity rebounding the ball. The Red Elephants outrebounded East Hall (8-5, 2-1) 43-29, and came up with several critical rebounds to get back in the game.
“They’re tougher inside then we are,” East Hall coach Joe Dix said. “They just out-physicalled us.
“Any time they needed a play they made it,” he added. “That’s the sign of a good basketball team.”
Leading the group making plays was senior George Manomano, who scored 10 points in the third quarter, including five during the 13-0 run in the third. He ended the game with 15 points, which was tied by Juwan Jeffries for the team high.
While Manomano was taking care of the scoring, sophomore A.J. Johnson was doing everything in his power to make sure that East Hall was limited to only one shot on offense. Johnson finished the game with 12 rebounds. His brother Nick Johnson chipped in with 11 points, four rebounds and a blocked shot, while D.J. McDuffie provided a spark off the bench with 11 points and three assists.
“I’m pleased with the way our whole team contributed tonight,” said Cottrell, who also complimented the play of Ty Redmon, who played substantial minutes down the stretch after starting point guard Blake Sims injured his shoulder on a drive to the basket in the fourth. Sims begged to play, but was held out of the final two minutes as a precautionary measure.
The injury to Sims was just evidence of the physical battle that took place between two region title contenders. Gainesville and East Hall played for every basket as if the game was being played in late February and not mid-January.
The Vikings, who had won seven of eight prior to the game, took control of the game early, in large part due to their outside shooting and ability to knock down open shots. But after three consecutive 3-pointers by Greg Edwards, Charles Perry and Ashton Cheeks increased East Hall’s lead to 48-39, the shots stopped falling.
The inability to get anything going offensively, combined with Gainesville getting almost every rebound sparked a six-minute scoreless span by the Vikings that lasted from the 4:01 mark in the third to the 6:35 mark in the fourth quarter.
“Anytime you get a 10-point lead against your rival on their home floor you have to hold on to it,” Dix said. “We didn’t handle their physicality. We need to be more physical on the glass or they will beat us again.”
While the Vikings saw their large lead slip away, the team was able to cut Gainesville’s lead to just two points due to the inside presence of Dustin Duckworth, who pulled down eight rebounds and scored all eight of his points in the fourth quarter.
East Hall was led by Cheeks, who had 10 points
The Vikings made it a one-point game on a 3-pointer by Jerry Rodriguez, but Gainesville went on an 8-2 run after that to hold on for the win.
Gainesville and East Hall are now tied for the subregion lead.
The Vikings travel to Centennial on Monday to take on Class AAAAA defending champion Norcross, while Gainesville next plays at 8:30 p.m. Friday in Oakwood against another subregion foe West Hall.
Gainesville girls 62, East Hall 44
With sole possession of first place in Region 7B-AAA on the line, the Gainesville Lady Red Elephants used a double-double by junior Jaymee Carnes and a 17-point effort from Mikalyn DeFoor to beat the Lady Vikings on Saturday at Gainesville High.
Mired in a defensive battle from start to finish that had the score 27-24 at halftime, the Red Elephants (9-6, 3-0 Region 7B-AAA) forced five consecutive East Hall (9-5, 2-1) turnovers to start the third quarter to build a 13-point lead.
Carnes, who finished with a game-high 21 points and 12 rebounds, led the Lady Red Elephants’ run by scoring eight points in the third quarter.
“Any time East Hall and Gainesville plays it’s a big rivalry, and when you throw in the fact that first place was on the line, it amplified the game,” Gainesville coach Manson Hill said. “This was our best game of the season so far.”
Despite the turnover-filled start of the second half that put his team behind for good, East Hall coach Joey Rider was still pleased with his team’s effort.
“We came out in the third quarter and got behind the 8-ball quick,” he said. “I’m still proud of our girls and thought they played hard ‘til the end.”
Erica McGonigle led East Hall with nine points (on three 3-pointers) and freshman Morgan Jackson added eight points.
Both teams have a week off until their next games when East Hall plays host to Flowery Branch and Gainesville visits West Hall. Both games are scheduled for 7 p.m.