Patience, discipline and a lack of memory; those are three things that Lumpkin County coach Bobby Smith instilled in his team prior to the opening round of the Region 7-AAA boys basketball tournament Wednesday at East Hall.
The Indians followed their coach’s orders, forgot about the 39-point loss to Flowery Branch on Dec. 18 and defeated the Falcons 54-42 to advance to the second round where they will play North Hall at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
“We did things differently this time around,” Lumpkin County coach Bobby Smith said. “We said we were going to slack off a few people this time and play a little matchup zone.”
At the focal point of that zone were Joshten Hopkins, Kevin Kanca and Ishmael Hollis, who averaged more than 20 points a game this season for the Falcons (13-12). That change in strategy worked, as Kanca was held scoreless, Hopkins scored just five points, and Hollis, who had 13 rebounds and scored 14 points.
“We didn’t want those three to get off,” Smith said.
While those three couldn’t get into a rhythm offensively, Lumpkin County (11-12) was scoring at ease, thanks in large part to the play of senior E.J. Young, who scored a game-high 16 points and had eight assists.
“It’s my senior year and I was determined to win this game,” said Young, who also had four steals. “How bad they beat us the last time was in the back of my mind the whole game.”
That was evident from the start as Young scored seven of his team’s 16 first-quarter points, and when Flowery Branch came back to take the lead at the half, Young reeled off five points to start the third to give his team the lead for good.
“He’s a great player,” Smith said of his point guard. “He’s grown as a player and when he’s under control we’re hard to beat.”
A self-proclaimed “hot head,” Young said that maturity led to his ability to lead his team to the win.
“Over the years I got under control and realized the game was much easier than I thought it was,” Young said.
The Indians, who have won six of their last seven, next game won’t be easy, as they take on a North Hall team that won its side of the region.
“We got a challenge on our hands,” said Smith, whose team shot 7-of-7 from the field in the fourth quarter and 59 percent for the game. “North Hall has great shooters and play extremely hard.”
The Trojans stand in the way of Lumpkin County’s first trip to the state playoffs since 2006, and for the first time under Smith.
“We’re trying to make history,” Young said.
Corey Sherman scored 13 points for the Falcons, whose season is now complete.
EAST HALL BOYS 85, GILMER 38: A sign that reads “East Hall Bomb Squad” hangs close to the bench in the Vikings’ home gym, and on Wednesday against Gilmer, the “Bomb Squad” came out in full force.
The Vikings (17-9) made 13 3-pointers in the first half and 16 for the game, which was more than enough to advance East Hall to the second round of the Region 7-AAA boys basketball tournament where it will play Pickens at 6 p.m. Friday at North Hall.
Leading the way for East Hall was Greg Edwards, who scored 14 points (four 3-pointers), J.C. Hampton, who scored 12 points (all on 3-pointers) and Hayden Chapman, who made three 3s and scored 11 points.
“When you shoot it like that it covers up some things that you might not do so well,” East Hall coach Joe Dix said. “We wanted to jump out early on them and we did that.”
The majority of those made 3’s were uncontested, courtesy of the dribble penetration and ball movement from the Vikings, who had 15 assists in the first half, with six of those coming from Charles Perry.
Perry and the rest of the starters didn’t play the majority of the second half, which gave Dix a prime opportunity to get young guys like Chapman some playing time.
“Our young kids played well,” said Dix, who saw 16 of his players score. “Those minutes are important to us; they’re evaluation minutes.”
There also minutes that his key players don’t play, which might be important as the tournament continues.
“Playing four games in six days, it’s huge,” Dix said of how important it is to get his players rest. “That may be the difference down the stretch.”
Ryan Lowery scored 17 points and had nine rebounds for the Bobcats (2-16), whose season is now complete.
PICKENS BOYS 56, LAMBERT 42: Jordan Shaw scored a game-high 25 points to lead the Dragons to a win in the first round of the Region 7-AAA boys basketball tournament Wednesday at East Hall.
The Dragons (15-11) took control of the game early and headed to the locker room with a 34-20 lead. That lead ballooned to 18 after the third quarter after the Longhorns scored just six points in the period.
Lambert (6-18) was led by Taylor Moore’s 14 points and Spencer Haywood’s eight points.
Pickens advances to play East Hall at 6 p.m. Friday at North Hall High.