It may be cliché, but for Joe Dix and the East Hall Vikings basketball team, taking a game-by-game mentality is the only way to be successful.
After suffering a 37-point loss to Lakeside-Dekalb on Monday night, the Vikings turned their attention to subregion foe Flowery Branch, a team they lost to by seven points Dec. 15.
With a vengeance, East Hall played inspired basketball on both ends of the floor en route to a 56-42 win Friday night at East Hall High.
With the win, the Vikings (12-6, 6-1 Region 7B-AAA) maintained their top spot in the subregion standings and matched their win total from a year ago.
“We set (subregion and region titles) as a goal,” East Hall coach Joe Dix said. “This team is still young and inexperienced, but we have played a tough schedule to get them ready for region play.
“Nothing surprises us because we’ve already seen it all because of our schedule and hopefully we’ll continue to grow as a group.”
If Friday night was any indication, the Vikings are doing just that as they committed just 12 team turnovers — to Flowery Branch’s 22 — and played near perfect helpside defense in holding Falcons’ 23.4-point-per-game scorer Ishmael Hollis to just 14 points on five field goals.
“We talked about it all week and the kids did a great job of executing the game plan,” Dix said.
The Vikings were outrebounded by the Falcons (7-8, 4-3), 37-20, but that mattered little because they, once again, held strong where Hollis was concerned, holding the player who averages nine offensive rebounds per game to just four.
Sophomore Chris Orr, junior Chaz Cheeks and senior Nolan Carter were catalysts in East Hall slowing Hollis down. The trio combined to keep Hollis at bay for the better part of the first half as he only had two points — both off free throws — and one offensive rebound.
Orr also chipped in nine points and three rebounds for the Vikings while Chaz Cheeks had eight rebounds.
“I challenged Orr all week and he really played inspired for us tonight and stepped up,” Dix said. “We played as good a halfcourt defensive game as I’ve coached. It reminded me of when we played against (Chestatee graduate) Parker Smith and we would have to change our rules defensively and game plan for him.
“Ishmael is a great player who is still growing as a player and for our kids to play the way they did against him is a great testament to him, and to our guys.”
East Hall held a 15-9 lead at the end of the first quarter thanks to some hot shooting.
After a back-and-forth start, the Vikings’ offense exploded from beyond the arc starting with two straight 3-pointers by Charles Perry and continuing with two straight by Ashton Cheeks.
Perry finished as the game’s leading scorer with 13 points and six assists. Cheeks added nine points and three rebounds.
“With Kymmon (Woods) out, we have to have guys step up,” Dix said. “Charles has done that for us. He’s our leader and was our floor leader tonight, he just did an excellent job.
Woods, who didn’t play in the beginning of the season due to an ACL tear suffered in the summer, recently tore the ACL again and is out for the rest of the season.
The Falcons came back in the second quarter to cut the Vikings lead to just three by halftime and continued that trend in the second half, tying the game at 24-24 on a pair of Hollis’ free throws.
Hollis gave his team its first lead of the game at 30-28 with just over two minutes remaining in the third quarter with his first field goal of the night.
East Hall made sure that would be the only glimmer of hope Flowery Branch had however as it reeled off an 8-0 run to end the third sparked by a Perry pass to Joshua Hampton for a 3-pointer and capped by a Perry to Greg Edwards pass for a 3-pointer that gave East Hall its biggest lead of the night at 38-28.
The Vikings continued the onslaught in the final period with a 5-0 run to start.
The Falcons made a last ditch effort and pulled within eight on back-to-back field goals by Hollis before East Hall ended the game with another run.
Once again sparked by a Perry pass for a 3-pointer — this one by Kevin Blackwell — the Vikings finished the game on a 6-2 run to win by 14.
Hollis finished as the Falcons leading scorer with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Otis Clark added eight for Flowery Branch.
East Hall returns to action at 8:30 tonight when it plays host to North Hall. Flowery Branch visits Central Gwinnett at 7:30 p.m. tonight.
EAST HALL GIRLS 46, FLOWERY BRANCH 39
A back-and-forth game was stopped by a strong fourth quarter by the Lady Vikings in which they outscored Flowery Branch 16-8 en route to a win Friday night at East Hall.
East Hall’s Morgan Jackson led all scorers with 11 points and seven rebounds. Jasmine Jenkins added nine points for the Lady Vikings (13-4, 7-0 Region 7B-AAA).
Flowery Branch (7-6, 3-3) was led by Cash Champion with eight points and four rebounds, Jessica Harper with seven points and eight rebounds and Cara Chilton with six points.