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Postgame incident overshadows Gainesville boys' 72-66 win over East Hall
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Gainesville's Luke Maddox drives between East Hall's Milton Whelchel, left, and Caleb Holtzclaw during Saturday night's game in Gainesville. - photo by Nat Gurley | The Times

Moments after Gainesville’s boys earned a 72-66 win over rival East Hall, Vikings coach Joe Dix had to be restrained by members of both coaching staffs and law enforcement officers after he entered the bleachers to confront a Gainesville fan.

Dix’s frustration with the fan was based on comments he said were made to his wife during the closing seconds of the game.

The fracas was broken up by officers, and no one was arrested.

“A man said something to my wife and I was just standing up for her,” Dix said when contacted later Saturday evening. 

Dix said he has no hard feelings for Gainesville’s basketball program, saying fans don’t realize that despite being rivals on the court, the coaches and players get along after the whistle. Gainesville coach Benjie Wood shared that sentiment.

“Joe Dix is a very good friend of mine,” Wood said. “I just want to make sure people know the people on the court are always good. We compete with them but at the end of the game we need to make sure we shake each other’s hands and go home.

“We’re a community. Everyone lives in Hall County, in Gainesville.”

When asked if he regretted entering the stands to confront the Gainesville fan, the Vikings’ coach admitted “that probably wasn’t the best thing to do."

The postgame incident overshadowed the Red Elephants' come-from-behind win, a positive sign for Wood as he continues to develop his team in preparation for next month’s Region 8-AAAAA tournament.

“We’re just becoming a team,” Wood said. “Two things we talk about all the time are attitude and effort. We are coming along and taking care of the process.”

The effort was there all night by both teams. As expected in a rivalry game, the emotions ran high, which led to 53 combined foul calls in the game and a total of 78 free throw attempts.

When asked about the amount of fouls, Wood said he thought it was a factor of two things: fatigue and both teams playing exceptionally hard.

“It was a factor of both teams competing their tails off,” Wood said. “Both teams competed their tails off and played really hard.”

Luke Maddox and Rodney Lackey each scored 20 points to lead Gainesville, while Nam Van Dulm finished with 14 points, despite missing much of the third quarter after leaving with an elbow injury.

East Hall’s Kyvon Davenport led all scorers with 24 points, while Jacquen Hopkins finished with 15 and Roderick Hughey contributed with 10.

Gainesville (12-9) rallied from a sluggish first quarter, which saw East Hall mount a six-point lead at the end of the period. Maddox and Van Dulm scored eight straight points for the Red Elephants and knotted the game at 18-18.

The game remained close throughout the third quarter, with Gainesville using a strong start to the fourth quarter to grab its final lead of the night.

Despite both teams playing nearly the entire final quarter in the double bonus, the Red Elephants used a 9-0 run to start the quarter to build a 57-48 led with 6:40 remaining. East Hall closed back within five points on multiple occasions, but the Red Elephants managed to convert free throws at the end of the game to ice the win.

Gainesville finished the night 21 of 36 from the free throw line, but scored 13 of its final 15 points from the free throw line. East Hall was 18 of 32 from the foul line.

“We have guys who are gamers, but we actually missed a lot more (free throws) than we normally do,” Wood said. “I’ll take those same guys shooting free throws. They’ll make them when it counts.”

GAINESVILLE GIRLS 56, EAST HALL 27: Ten different Lady Red Elephants scored as Gainesville’s girls never trailed in a non-region contest.

Kabree Randolph and Sophia Jackson each scored 10 points for Gainesville (17-4). Paisley Lee contributed with eight.

Jenny Edwards scored a game-high to lead East Hall (10-11), which was shutout in the first quarter.

Gainesville managed to build a 10-0 first-quarter lead before East Hall scored its first points at the 6:23 mark of the second quarter. Gainesville quickly extended its lead to as many as 16 in the first half, a lead that would eventually get as large as 29 by the end of the game.

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