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No. 9 East Hall boys basketball team pulls away from region unbeaten, No. 2 GAC in 74-57 win
Vikings and Spartans now tied for first place in Region 7-AAA
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East Hall's Deonte Evans (12) dribbles downcourt while being guarded by Greater Atlanta Christian's Trevor Gulley (33) during Tuesday night's game at East Hall High School. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Sedrion Morse showed off his post moves, Joe Dix showed off his dance moves and the East Hall boys basketball team knocked off the Region 7-AAA leader Tuesday night.

The No. 9 Vikings avenged their previous loss to No. 2 Greater Atlanta Christian, leading wire-to-wire in a convincing 74-57 win in Gainesville. Chants could be heard erupting from East Hall’s locker room after the game, and Dix said he performed a ‘tribal dance’ for his rowdy players.

“I’ve got some good moves,” the coach said with a grin. “Oh yeah, absolutely.”

The win that got Dix dancing also created a tie between the two teams atop the region standings with just a week and a half remaining in the regular season. The Spartans (15-5, 8-1) were previously unbeaten in region play and had handed the Vikings (14-6, 8-1) a 71-62 loss Dec. 16.

But the same shortcomings that cost East Hall on the road last month — turnovers and a relative lack of depth — instead afflicted Greater Atlanta Christian in this region rematch.

Dix’s trademark defensive pressure forced 15 turnovers, though that number was still short of the 21 the Vikings committed in the teams’ first meeting. Senior guards Keilen Dowdy and Tony Martinez were available this time around, giving East Hall more bodies to deploy against the Spartans’ bigger lineup.

“Over there, our bench was a little bit shorter. Tonight they played and gave us great minutes,” Dix said of Dowdy and Martinez. “ … I thought (Greater Atlanta Christian) got a little tired tonight with us pushing the tempo at them. That was big.”

The game was a physical affair from the get-go. Morse (14 points, seven rebounds) took a hard charge that appeared to bust his lip from Spartans’ forward Chris Hinton, a 6-foot-4, 265-pounder who has received football scholarship offers from a host of Division I programs.

The Vikings drew four charges in the first half, the last of which provoked a reaction from Greater Atlanta Christian coach David Eaton that earned him a technical foul.

East Hall was already in the double bonus before the halfway mark of the second quarter, a byproduct of the tough contest Dix and his players anticipated.

“We knew they were going to be big and strong,” Dix said. “We saw them play a couple of times, so we knew what to expect.”

The biggest of them was Spartans senior forward Charlie O’Briant, a 6-foot-8 Air Force commit. He produced a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds but didn’t score more than four points in a quarter — a far cry from the December matchup when he “turned the game around,” Dix said.

Yet the Spartans trimmed a 37-26 halftime deficit to just six points midway through the third quarter before junior guard Luke Cooper responded with a 3-pointer.

Morse then picked up three quick blocks on one trip down the floor, and Cooper nailed another long-range shot to put the Vikings up by double digits for good. The junior forward provided the final blow with less than five minutes to play when he corralled two offensive rebounds and completed a three-point play to give East Hall a 68-51 lead.

Cooper led all scorers with 23 points, while senior forward Mahki Brown pitched in 16 points and eight rebounds for East Hall after scoring 24 against Greater Atlanta Christian earlier this year.

Guards Hunter McIntosh (14 points) and Branden Harris (10) were the only Spartans besides O’Briant to score in double figures.

“We finished a little bit better tonight,” Dix said. “We didn’t turn it over as much, and we didn’t get tired. I think we played very hard. We had some moments where we were flying all over the place.”

As the final minutes ticked off the clock, the home crowd belted out chants of “East Hall.”

Shortly after the final buzzer, the Vikings were chanting something different in their locker room — and Dix was dancing in celebration of his team’s biggest win of the season.

“We played well down there, and they were able to get us at the end,” he said of the teams’ first game. “So we talked about playing well and having the opportunity to even it up. The crowd was behind us, and we were really lights out tonight.”

On Friday, East Hall visits Union County in Blairsville.

GREATER ATLANTA CHRISTIAN GIRLS 71, EAST HALL 44: Carly Winters scored her 1,000th career point, but turnovers doomed the Lady Vikings in their first region loss of the season.

East Hall (13-7, 8-1 Region 7-AAA) committed 27 turnovers, while four Lady Spartans (13-6, 8-1) scored in double figures. Greater Atlanta Christian outscored the Lady Vikings 33-18 in the second half to pull even with them at the top of the region standings.

The Lady Spartans beat East Hall 70-30 on Dec. 16 at home, but they had to forfeit the win due to a player competing in more quarters between the junior varsity and varsity games than the GHSA allows.

Winters scored only seven points but still reached 1,000 for her career on a pull-up jumper in the third quarter. Officials stopped the game to recognize the junior, who reached the same milestone senior Kylah Mize surpassed last week against North Hall.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Winters said. “My teammates were so excited for me, and they all supported me. It was a great thing.”

Greater Atlanta Christian’s Robyn Benton notched a game-high 19 points and 10 rebounds for a double-double, while Taylor Sutton contributed 16 points. Tamiah Lewis added 13 points, and Caria Reynolds scored 11.

Mize finished with 17 points as the only East Hall player to score in double figures.

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