OAKWOOD — East Hall high senior Ken Wise couldn’t wait to get back out on the basketball court. Wise, who suffered a severe knee injury during the preseason, hit the court for the first time this season and helped lead the Vikings to an 84-68 victory against Johnson on Friday night in the opening round of the 48th annual Lanierland Basketball Tournament.
The 6-foot-5 forward came off the bench and guided the sixth-seeded Vikings (2-1) with 12 points and five rebounds.
"I felt pretty good out there tonight for only practicing once," Wise said with a smile.
"Our first goal was to win Lanierland, and I’ve never wanted to win it more."
Down 60-45 with 4 minutes, 38 seconds remaining in the third quarter, the Knights managed to put together a 6-0 run, closing the deficit to only nine points.
With Johnson threatening to score again, East Hall used its full-court pressure and the constant hustle of senior Josh Chapman to put away any last hope Johnson had at a victory.
Chapman, a 6-3 forward, dove at a ball, pulled it away from a Johnson guard and quickly called a timeout.
Out of the timeout, Chapman threw a lob to Wise for a finger roll and soon the "East Hall" chants followed.
"I felt good about my performance tonight," Chapman said. "I didn’t get some of the calls that I thought I should have, but I was happy to see that my teammates were finishing on some of my hustle plays."
Chapman added that the addition of Wise has given the Vikings a ton of confidence.
"It’s huge for the whole team," Chapman said. "The younger guys are more comfortable out there, and it’s just good to have him back."
East Hall’s Kiante Young finished the game with 15 points and nine steals, Dedric Ware added 12, Tracey Gardner finished with nine and Kasey Rylee and Patrick Hoggard each scored eight.
"It was good to beat a quality opponent with all of our guys intact," East Hall coach Joe Dix said. "Tonight was the first time we’ve had everyone, and these guys are all still trying to learn one another.
"Our guys dug in tonight, and I’m pretty pleased with the win."
Dix added that his Vikings are extremely "hungry" to win their sixth consecutive Lanierland title.
"This was one of our goals in the preseason," Dix added. "Once you win that first one, you still have a shot.
"It was just a very good victory for us tonight."
East Hall plays Lakeview at 5:30 p.m. Friday at East Hall High.