OAKWOOD — A track meet was held in the Frank J. Knight Center on Friday night between the East Hall and Johnson basketball teams.
The Knights could barely see the finish line by the time the Vikings had crossed it.
In a game that featured minimal half-court sets and more back-and-forth action than a tennis match, East Hall produced one of its best offensive nights of the season, beating Johnson 87-58.
Both teams use a full-court, "run-and-shoot" style of play that has become popular in Northeast Georgia.
The Vikings players looked faster and more comfortable in that style, producing a bounty of turnovers and easy shots.
"We were getting in transition well and doing a good job of looking for each other," East Hall coach Joe Dix said. "They (Johnson) have the kids to play that way, too."
The Knights spent most of the first half just trying to keep pace with East Hall, which had players sprinting all over the court.
With just over three minutes left in the first half, Johnson was down 32-28 but already looked drained. Johnson players took deep breaths during breaks with their hands on their hips.
That was when East Hall started to pull away. The Vikings went on a 10-3 run to end the half and a 16-4 run to start the second half.
"They made us speed up past what we are comfortable doing," Johnson coach Jeff Steele said. "We were just not mentally tough enough. We had composure issues."
Seniors Dedric Ware, Ken Wise and junior Kiante Young led East Hall with 10 points each. Senior Trevor Bishop added nine.
Seventeen East Hall players found the bottom of the basket.
"Those are just the things that they do better than us," Steele said. "They finish. They take advantage of easy shots."
Johnson had the most success at slowing down East Hall by drawing fouls. In the first half, the Knights took 18 free throws. The Vikings didn’t take a free throw until the second half.
After one call against his team in the second quarter, Dix became so frustrated that he had to angrily take off his blue sports jacket to cool off.
"I was just frustrated that our guys didn’t realize how the game was going to be called," he said. "Sometimes they call it hard, sometimes they don’t."
Senior Colby Horne led the Knights with 11 points. Davaris Finch added nine points.
Steele said he was disappointed with his team’s attitude coming off of the holiday break.
"They ought to be hungry to play," he said. "It was a tough game to come back to, but I didn’t think they came out to play tonight."
What is it going to take to get some excitement back into his team?
"We are going to have to find the buttons that will light a fire in them," Steele said. "We are going to be better by the end of the year."
East Hall, on the other hand, had one of its best nights of the season. The Vikings’ 87 points was its second highest total of the season. They scored 89 points earlier in the season.
"That is right around where we want to be," Dix said. "We are averaging about 75 points right now. We want to be between 85-90."
East Hall’s inside presence, Wise, added the perfect defensive exclamation point to the big offensive night.
In the fourth quarter, Johnson’s Brandon Sloan pulled down a rebound and went back up for the putback under the basket. From around the free-throw line, Wise ran and leaped toward Sloan, blasting his shot into the Vikings’ cheerleading squad.
Afterwards, Wise hit his chest as he looked into the East Hall crowd with a giant smile.
Both teams will be back in action Tuesday when the Vikings play host to Gilmer and the Knights travel to West Forsyth.
East Hall girls 52, Johnson 35
The Lady Vikings won their ninth game of the season by beating the Lady Knights in the Frank J. Knight Center on Friday night.
Johnson was able to hang with an uninspired East Hall team early, trailing 11-7 after the first quarter, but the Lady Vikings were able to pull away at that point.
East Hall outscored Johnson 17-8 in the second quarter to build a comfortable lead.
Senior Sada Wheeler led East Hall with 22 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks. Jessica Blackwell added eight points.
The Lady Knights were led by junior Jordan Gustavel, who had 14 points and three 3-pointers.
East Hall plays host to Gilmer on Tuesday, while Johnson will travel to West Forsyth.