Holly Lester has a green light for the East Hall High girl’s basketball team to shoot the long range shot, and she didn’t let her clearance by the coaching staff pass by with a wide open 3-pointer staring her in the face in a clutch situation on Tuesday.
Leading 32-27 with only 3:50 left to play in the game against Gainesville in the Lanierland Tournament semifinals, Lester hit a high-arcing 3-pointer from the corner, and helped solidify East Hall’s spot in the tournament finals.
“I think I almost stopped breathing when I let the shot go,” Lester said.
The basket pushed the Lady Vikings’ (4-2) lead further ahead and sent them on to a 44-27 win at Chestatee.
East Hall coach Joey Rider says that the open 3-pointers were a result of Gainesville trying to keep it out of the hands of junior center Morgan Jackson, who finished with a game-high 16 points. It naturally created shots on the outside.
“Gainesville was trying to keep the ball out of Morgan’s hands and that created the open 3-point shots,” Rider said. “When (Lester) gets the open shots there, we expect her to take it.”
With the win, East Hall will face Chestatee for the Lanierland title at 6 p.m. Thursday night at West Hall. The Lady Vikings are in the Lanierland finals for the third time in four years under Rider, but haven’t won the tournament championship since the 2006 season.
“It feels great to be in the tournament finals,” Jackson said. “I think this is our year to win it.”
Even though Rider is thrilled with advancing to the finals, he’s most optimistic with what he sees shaping up for East Hall as far as the rest of the season is concerned.
“We weren’t playing well early in the season, but we’re finally starting to find a little rhythm and playing with confidence,” Rider said.
Even though Lester’s was the biggest 3-pointer in terms of shaping the outcome, it wasn’t the only clutch 3-point basket for East Hall. Leading 37-27, Taylor Bishop stepped up and drained a 3-pointer with only 2:21 remaining in the game.
“We were moving the ball around well and that created the open shots for us,” said Bishop, a senior. “We know we have the green light to shoot it, so I took the shot.
“This is great to make it to the finals and especially to beat Gainesville.”
Even though East Hall managed to dominate the first half and fourth quarter, the Lady Red Elephants (5-6) managed to make a game out of it early in the final period. Rebecca Webster stepped up and drained an open 3-pointer with 5:35 left to play and followed that with another basket to keep the Lady Vikings’ lead minimal.
Webster finished with a team-high 12 points for Gainesville and Mikalyn DeFoor had a pair of 3-pointers and finished with six points.
However, the main story for East Hall in the first half was great defensive pressure on Gainesville. The Lady Red Elephants only scored nine first-half points.
Rider says the main game plan for his team was to minimize the shooting opportunities that Webster and DeFoor had in the paint.
With the loss, Gainesville faces North Hall in the consolation at 3 p.m. Thursday at West Hall.