It took about a quarter for the East Hall girls to shake off a case of the first-round jitters. Once the nerves were soothed, the Lady Vikings showed why they’ve now won 15 of their last 17 games.
Flustering Carrollton with its full-court pressure defense and getting big games from sophomores Jasmine Jenkins and Morgan Jackson, East Hall knocked off the defending Class AAA champions 60-47 on Saturday night at East Hall High.
The Lady Vikings (22-6) will travel to take on Region 8-AAA champion Stephens County on Wednesday in the second round.
“I thought we played better as the game went along,” East Hall coach Joey Rider said. “We had some nerves early on, and it showed. But once we got settled down, we started executing and playing better.”
The Lady Vikings led throughout, and held a 15-point advantage early in the fourth quarter, but Carrollton put in a determined performance and chipped the lead down to five points late in the game.
But keeping with a theme established in the second quarter, East Hall’s sophomores stepped up to keep the Lady Trojans at arm’s length.
In the first half, it was Jackson who steadied East Hall, scoring 10 of her 18 points in the second quarter after the Lady Vikings struggled from the field early in the game.
Down the stretch, it was Jenkins converting seven of her nine free throws that kept East Hall in control.
After seeing several shots roll out early on, Jenkins found her mark in the second half, when she scored 18 of her game-high 22 points.
“When we’re struggling, we go to those two,” Rider said. “That’s more what the team does, as opposed to me telling them to do it. They’ve got a high basketball IQ, and they do a good job of finding the person who’s hot at the time.”
While the Lady Vikings’ shooting suffered in the first quarter, their defensive effort was stellar. East Hall forced 30 Carrollton turnovers in the game, including 12 in a frenetic first quarter.
Despite the extra opportunities — Carrollton had only nine field goal attempts in the first eight minutes — the Lady Vikings led by only two points entering the second quarter, due to a 3-for-16 effort from the field.
That’s when Jackson took over.
The 5-foot-11 forward made four straight field goals early in the second quarter and finished the game 8-for-13 from the field.
“Morgan really took over at that point in the game,” Rider said. “She made those (four) shots in a row, and that settled us down.”
Then it was Jenkins’ turn.
With a 26-23 lead entering the second half, the Lady Viking point guard scored four straight to start the third quarter and dished to Jackson for the next two points. She finished the third quarter scoring 10 points and providing the assists on two of East Hall’s other three field goals.
But Tierra Prothro wouldn’t let Carrollton (21-8) go down easy. The senior forward, who finished with a team-high 16 points, led the Lady Trojans during a fourth-quarter comeback. She spurred the run with three straight buckets in the lane and cut the lead to 50-45 on a 3-pointer with a little more than 2:30 left in the game.
During an ensuing timeout, Rider settled his team.
“I told them we were getting outhustled,” he said. “We were a little tired, and (Carrollton) was doing the little things and we weren’t. After that we got a little better effort, and we started coming up with those loose balls.”
With two minutes remaining, Jenkins gave the Lady Vikings some breathing room with a dribble drive and layup. And after a Carrollton turnover in the back court on the ensuing possession, she fed Jackson for a short jumper in the lane to give East Hall a nine-point lead that was never threatened again.
Senior Dorreka Faulkner finished with 10 points for East Hall, while Carrollton got nine from Raven Trammell.
The season is now complete for the Lady Trojans.