Senior leadership, or the lack thereof, can make or break a young team.
When East Hall sophomore starting point guard Jasmine Jenkins got in foul trouble early against Flowery Branch, senior and three-year starter Dorreka Faulkner made sure her team didn’t break.
Faulkner scored 11 points - all in the second half - while hitting 6 of 8 from the free throw line to lead her team to a 44-36 win in the Lady Vikings (4-2, 1-0 Region 7A-AAA) subregion opener Tuesday night at Flowery Branch High.
“Dorreka (Faulkner) has been through the war,” East Hall coach Joey Rider said. “She was able to calm down our younger players out on the court.
“She was a leader for us the whole game with Jasmine (Jenkins) being out, not just down the stretch, and we’ve come to expect that of her.”
Faulkner’s calm and cool demeanor was especially key considering the sloppy play by both teams during the course of the game.
The Lady Falcons(2-4, 0-1) and Lady Vikings combined for 47 turnovers in the game.
“I’ll say this,” Rider said. “I’d rather win ugly than lose pretty, but boy was this a sloppy one.”
Faulkner was the catalyst against a Flowery Branch team that, despite being without senior leading scorer Jessica Harper, played a no-quit version of basketball.
On the defensive end alone, senior Cash Champion and Chelsea Young accounted for eight of the Lady Falcons’ 13 steals.
Down by as much as seven in the third quarter, the Lady Falcons cut it to two points with defensive pressure and a 5-0 run. Even when Faulkner hit a potentially back-breaking 3-pointer late in the third quarter to put her team up five, Flowery Branch came right back to pull back within two on a three-point play by Young.
The Lady Falcons continued to push East Hall early in the fourth quarter, never giving the Lady Vikings enough of a cushion to feel comfortable.
Lady Falcons’ freshman Jacy Ramey tied it at 28-28 with six minutes left on a pair of free throws and sophomore Cara Chilton came through in the same fashion, hitting a short jumper with four minutes to go in the game to tie it at 31-31.
Free throws by Morgan Jackson and Holly Lester gave East Hall a three-point lead and then Lester came up with the game’s biggest play, hitting a 3-pointer with just under four minutes left that finally gave East Hall some breathing room along with a 39-31 lead it would not relinquish.
“The key for us was Holly’s (Lester) 3-pointer,” Rider said. “That was huge as was our ability to hit free throws there at the end.”
The Lady Vikings were 11 of 16 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter.
“This was a huge win for us on the road tonight,” Rider said. “Anytime you can open up your subregion with a win, that’s a good night.
“As sloppy as the first 30 minutes were, we handled the last few minutes well and that’s the only reason we won.”
Flowery Branch was led by Champion’s 12 points and four steals and Young’s seven points, six rebounds and four steals.
Chilton added six points and five rebounds for the Lady Falcons.
Flowery Branch returns to action at when it plays host to Lumpkin County at 7 p.m. Friday while the Lady Vikings next play Union County at 7 p.m. Friday at the North Georgia College and State University-Achasta Challenge at North Georgia College and State University in Dahlonega.
FLOWERY BRANCH BOYS 75, EAST HALL 68
Ishmael Hollis had 27 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks to lead the Falcons to the win Tuesday night at Flowery Branch High.
The Falcons outscored East Hall 26-11 in the first quarter to set the tone for a first half in which maintained a double-digit lead.
East Hall came out firing in the third quarter, however, cutting a Falcons 42-31 halftime lead to five with three minutes remaining on two made free throws by Kymmon Woods.
Woods, playing in his first game of the season since returning from an ACL tear, was the team’s second leading scorer with 12 points.
A 3-pointer by Joshten Hopkins sparked a 6-0 third-quarter ending run that put the Falcons up by 11.
East Hall, however, again came back pulling to within five on an Ashton Cheeks’ layup and to within three points on a jumper by Charles Perry on the Vikings ensuing possession.
Woods’ steal followed by his layup made the score 56-55 Flowery Branch but that was as close as the Vikings would get as the Falcons converted their free throws – they shot 56 in the game to the Vikings 25 – down the stretch to preserve the win.
Hopkins and Corey Sherman each added 13 points for Flowery Branch and Zach Barrett contributed 12.Perry was the big scorer for East Hall with 25 points. Cheeks added 10 for the Vikings.