The objective for the East Hall girls basketball team was to jump on Elbert County early, and then spend the rest of the game just playing ball.
The Lady Vikings accomplished both in their 64-45 rout of Region 8-AAA’s No. 3 seed Friday at East Hall High.
With the win, the Lady Vikings (22-7) move on to the second round of the Class AAA state playoffs where they will travel to play the No. 1 seed out of Region 5-AAA, and the eighth-ranked team in the state, Dunwoody.
The game will be a rematch of last year’s first round East Hall win against Dunwoody at Dunwoody. In that game, former players
Sada Wheeler and Tierra Benton had 40 of East Hall’s 54 points.
“That’s a lot of offense we lost,” East Hall coach Joey Rider said, “but I like our kids and I like our chances anywhere against anybody.”
As he should, especially with the way his Lady Vikings played Friday night.
Freshman Jasmine Jenkins set the tone offensively for East Hall, scoring 12 of the team’s 21 first-quarter points.
She capped a 9-2 run to start the game with a pull-up jumper from the free throw line. As though on a mission to outdo herself, she scored 10 points during a quarter-ending 12-3 run by East Hall, including four straight with 10 seconds remaining to give her team a 21-10 lead at the start of the second.
Jenkins finished with 14 points, three steals, five assists and four rebounds in the first state playoff game of her career.
“It’s funny because 45 minutes before the game she told me she wasn’t feeling it; she couldn’t hit a shot in warmups,” Rider said.
“While she is a freshman and this was her first state game, it’s also her 29th game and she’s played a lot of minutes in all of them. She’s expected to do what she did tonight.”
While Jenkins was hot in the first quarter — she was 4-of-6 from the field — the rest of the team shot only 27 percent, contributing instead with stifling defensive pressure that caused 10 Elbert County (20-9) turnovers in the first half.
“(Our defense) was extremely impressive,” Rider said. “Early on I thought our press gave (Elbert County) fits.
“The most impressive to me though was that we talked all week about forcing them left, the kids did it and it took them out of their game. The athleticism and physical part has always been there for us, but tonight we added the mental too.”
East Hall spent the remainder of the game building on what it started in the first quarter, led by Symone Hampton.
The senior forward led eight East Hall scorers with 18 points to go with six rebounds and three blocks.
The Lady Vikings didn’t let Elbert County get closer than 10 points in the second half, taking their biggest lead, 21 points, on a Haley Chapman steal and 3-point play.
Freshman Morgan Jackson rounded out the double-digit scorers for East Hall with 10 points and seven rebounds.
Elbert County was led by Faith Heard and Sarah Ward who scored 11 points each.