East Hall’s boys basketball team is used to the stakes getting progressively higher this time of the year. This is the point in the season when the next game is always most important for the Vikings (21-5).
That certainly rings true as East Hall prepares to play Chestatee (21-6) in the Region 7-AAA tournament semifinals at 5:30 p.m. tonight at Gainesville. Last week, these two teams got together for the Region 7A-AAA regular season title and No. 1 seed in the region tournament.
Just seven days removed from the Vikings’ win, these two teams are squaring off again.
“We talked to the guys about the possibility of playing Chestatee again,” East Hall coach Joe Dix said. “It’s time to saddle up again and get ready to play.”
Both East Hall and Chestatee are already assured spots in the Class AAA state playoffs as a result of wins earlier this week at West Forsyth in the first round of the tournament.
With East Hall’s win against Lumpkin County on Tuesday night, the Vikings are now 32-0 in state qualifying games in school history. But just getting back into the playoffs isn’t enough for East Hall.
The boys from Valhalla have much loftier goals.
Tonight’s winner is assured a spot in the Region 7-AAA tournament finals and a home game in the first round of the state playoffs next weekend. The loser has to go on the road in the first round of the playoffs against a home-seed from Region 5-AAA, considered the toughest region in the state.
East Hall certainly has history on its side when it comes to region tournament play. The Vikings are 75-6 in region tournament games and are looking for region title No. 21 over a 26-year span, according to Vikings basketball historian Ray Adamson.
Dix says the thing that separates this year’s team from past Vikings’ squads is its overall depth. Ken Wise, Kiante Young, Dedric Ware, Dustin Duckworth, Patrick Hoggard, Tracey Gardner, Joshten Hopkins, Trevor Bishop, Josh Chapman, Kasey Rylee and Kymon Woods have all scored in double digits for East Hall this season, which is a new record under Dix.
But the Vikings don’t want to rest on past accomplishments.
“We have great respect for Chestatee and know they’ll come ready to play,” Dix added. “The other two games we played this season against each other can be thrown out the window now.”
The War Eagles have played the roll of spoiler before in the region tournament. Last year, Chestatee upset then-No. 1 seed Johnson to earn their first trip to the state playoffs. This time around the War Eagles have a chance at hosting their first playoff game in school history.
Chestatee already has set a school record this season with wins (21) and now the War Eagles are looking to garner their first win in school history against the Vikings.
“We’re excited about this opportunity,” Chestatee coach Russ Triaga said. “With our program we’ve kept working for these opportunities.
“These are the building blocks to building a better program.”
Chestatee’s Parker Smith, the leading scorer in region 7-AAA this season at 30 points per game, is now fully recovered from an ankle injury at the end of the regular season. On Wednesday, Smith finished with 36 points and hit all 12 of his free throws against the Spartans. He is just 20 points shy of 2,000 in his career.
Flowery Branch (22-3) visits Gainesville (15-11) in the other boys semifinal game at 8:30 tonight. The Falcons steam rolled West Forsyth to get into the semifinals and are looking to secure just their second home playoff game in the school’s history.
The Red Elephants won a thriller against North Hall 61-55 on Wednesday to give coach Jerry Davis a shot at another region title before retirement.
The Lady Red Elephants (21-5) are also in the hunt for the region title. Gainesville plays host to Gilmer (21-5) at 7 p.m. tonight. The Lady Bobcats are a lock for the playoffs for the first time since 1992.
Today’s 7-AAA semifinal action begins with the North Hall girls (18-9) against the defending Class AAA state champs from East Hall at 4 p.m. at Gainesville.
In Region 6-AA, No. 6 ranked Buford (22-5) faces top-ranked Wesleyan (24-2) at 4 p.m. at Pace Academy. In most regions, the Lady Wolves would be a favorite to win the region title. But Buford plays in probably the toughest region in the state with three teams ranked in the top 10.
Leading Buford on the court is junior post Blanche Alverson who hit 1,000 points in her career earlier this week.
Wesleyan crushed Avondale 87-49 to set up the third match-up of the season against Buford. Wesleyan won the first two meetings against Buford this season.
In Region 8-AA, Dawson County’s boys (19-7) play Washington-Wilkes in the semifinals tonight at Putnam County.
Both Lakeview Academy’s boys and girls face Social Circle tonight in the Region 8-A semifinals at Towns County.
The Lions boys (18-8) face Social Circle at 8:30 tonight after winning their first round game 87-59 over Towns County. Lakeview Academy has won 12 of their last 13.
The Lakeview Academy girls face the Redskins at 4 p.m. this afternoon.
The Jefferson boys (14-12) are still in the hunt for its sixth consecutive 8-A region title. The Dragons face Athens Academy at 5:30 p.m. today at Towns County.