GAINESVILLE - The East Hall boys had a clear decision to make Friday night.
The Vikings could either win at Chestatee and secure the subregion title and No. 1 spot for the Region 7-AAA tournament, or lose and leave their fate up to a lottery drawing for the top spot.
After a sloppy first quarter by both teams, East Hall decided it would rather control its own destiny. After turning over the ball eight times in the first quarter, East Hall went on a 12-5 run in the second quarter en route to a 70-59 win earning a first-round bye in the Region 7-AAA tournament next week.
"Our team made a great statement tonight," East Hall coach Joe Dix said. "We played a good, strong defensive game tonight.
"We’re defending as well as we have in a long time."
With the win, East Hall plays the winner of the Lumpkin County/Johnson game at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday for a spot in the Class AAA state playoffs. Chestatee plays host to Pickens at 8:30 p.m. on Monday.
North Hall is now the No. 2 seed from Region 7A-AAA following its 70-33 win against Gilmer on Friday, which makes Chestatee the No. 3 seed.
As has become the standard operating procedure for the Vikings this season, it was another balanced night scoring with three players in double figures. Trevor Bishop, a senior, scored a team high 15 for the Vikings (19-5, 9-1 Region 7A-AAA). Ken Wise added 13 and Dedric Ware scored 12 for East Hall.
Just as important for East Hall was the way it minimized the impact of Chestatee senior Parker Smith, who began the night averaging 35 points per game this season. He was still showing the effects of his ankle injury from the War Eagles’ last game and finished the game with only eight points.
"We contested his shots," Dix said. "The kids are progressing and getting a little better every game out."
Branden Jovaag led Chestatee in scoring with 18 points. Lamar Brooks scored 11 for the War Eagles (19-6, 7-3).
Ware helped key East Hall’s win with a 3-point basket in the second, third and fourth quarter. His only basket in the second period extended the Vikings’ lead to 39-24.
"They got ahead of us and that’s a tough spot for us," Chestatee coach Russ Triaga said.
At the end of the third period, Wise and Patrick Hoggard had back-to-back dunks to make the lead 15 points again for the Vikings.
"It’s OK. We’re going to come back and win on Monday, and then again on Tuesday to get back into the playoffs," Triaga said. "I’m okay with playing them (East Hall) again next Friday."
East Hall girls 45, Chestatee 28
Tierra Benton’s effort early in the first quarter Friday was just a sign of things to come. East Hall’s senior pulled down back-to-back offensive rebounds and finished the series with a basket with 6:30 remaining in the first quarter of the Lady Vikings’ win.
Benton finished the game with four points and nine rebounds.
"TT plays like that every night," East Hall coach Joey Rider said. "Her mentality is that a shot is a pass."
With the win, East Hall secures the No. 1 spot in the Region 7-AAA tournament and has a first round bye.
The Lady Vikings face the winner of the White County/Johnson game at 4 p.m. on Tuesday at West Forsyth. Chestatee faces Flowery Branch at 4 p.m. on Monday at Chestatee.
The Lady Vikings (18-5, 8-2 Region 7A-AAA) started the game on a 15-5 run thanks to strong play inside and baskets from Jessica Blackwell, Sonata Chester and Sada Wheeler.
Wheeler led the Vikings in scoring with 14 points and added 10 rebounds, five blocked shots.
East Hall dominated rebounds with 17 offensive boards, and 31 total rebounds.
Peyton Robertson led the War Eagles (11-13, 6-4) with 12 points.
"Winning the subregion was a goal of our team when we were playing average early in the season," Rider added. "We’re going to celebrate this tonight, but we have to get ready to play again on Tuesday."