All it took for Kylah Mize to get a hot hand at the right time was a hostile crowd, a deadlock to break and the basketball in her hands.
The East Hall sophomore (five points) made two clutch free throws with just 3.9 seconds remaining on the clock to pull out a gritty 34-32 win Friday night in Gainesville for their fourth win of the season.
“I was trying to block out the crowd, put it softly over the rim and it actually went in,” she said outside of the visitors’ locker room after the game. “I was kind of shaking a little bit, I was nervous, but that was OK.”
The Vikings (4-1) scored 13 points in a breakout second quarter to recover from a shaky start and secure its third win away from East Hall in 2014.
Chestatee (1-3) rode out to an 11-3 advantage after the first quarter thanks to junior shooting guard Tyler Bennett, who hit three field goals to open the game.
To make matters worse, Justin Wheeler’s Viking team got into early foul trouble, with his three starters Jatasia Bailey, Jenny Edwards and Ashlyn Ellison picking up two fouls apiece.
So Wheeler had to make the choice of leaving his starters in, or pull them for the long-term.
Wheeler rolled the dice and kept his best players on the court.
“Sometimes, you just have to take a chance, right?,” he said. “It’s tough because we’re an aggressive team. It was hard for us to stick back and play, but sometimes you have to fight through it.”
A low-scoring third quarter led to a frantic fourth, with both teams grappling for a final possession.
Sophomore Stephanie Briseno (five points) nailed her lone three for Chestatee to tie the game at 28-all with four minutes remaining before Kayla Watson (12 points) converted her hoop and harm for a narrow War Eagle lead.
But Mize was fouled on her way to the rim with just five seconds on the clock. The 5-7 guard singlehandedly shut out a boisterous Chestatee student section by making each of her two free shots, then turned to her bench to celebrate a hard-fought win with her Viking teammates.
Mize tallied just five points in the win, but the final two were the most important. The sophomore says her team will have to get used to winning tough games like that as it traverses a tricky region schedule.
“I’m pretty sure we’ll see more of these types of games,” she said, “so we got to learn how to get through them. My shots weren’t falling a lot, but it’s one of those games.”
EAST HALL BOYS 76, CHESTATEE 33: East Hall used a 21-point third quarter to silence a possible Chestatee comeback and pick a 76-33 win over the War Eagles (2-3) in Gainesville.
Kyvon Davenport scored nine of his game-high 18 points to equal out a composed 11-2 War Eagle run to end the half at 34-24. But Davenport sparked an East Hall advantage of his own late in the third to extend the Viking lead to 55-29 by the end of the third to close out a non-region win away from home.
“It was important that we pull away. We should have beaten them by like 55 or 60, but we didn’t make our free throws,” Davenport said. “It was important that we come out quick or they would have made it close.”
East Hall (3-1) did just that to open the game on a 12-3 run in the first four minutes, thanks to the quick reactions of junior Triston Cooper, who picked up seven points in the opening session.
Down 32-15 midway through the second, Chestatee’s shooters finally picked up momentum. Rylee Camp flushed flushed two off-balance three pointers either side of a Caleb Jameson layup to finish off an 11-2 run in under three minutes. His last one, coming from three feet behind the arc, swished the net just as the buzzer rang for halftime.
But junior Jacquen Hopkins began to work his magic low in the paint, using his small but strong body to muscle past Chestatee guards. His hard work allowed Davenport to stretch the court, and Davenport would make the pressure count with two back-to-back mid-range shots before converting his second dunk of the night with 45 seconds left in the quarter.
The Vikings would end the third on a 13-0 run, including a Triston Cooper trey at the buzzer before the final quarter.