By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
State basketball playoffs: Hart County overcomes early deficit to down East Hall
Hart County's Kurvin Curry (3) attempts a shot with East Hall's Ken Wise blocking during the first half of the Vikings' loss at Mt. Zion High school.
JONESBORO — Midway through the season, East Hall’s head coach Joe Dix knew what it would take for his team to make its sixth consecutive trip to Macon to play for a state title.

And he also knew that some of the team’s weaknesses could eventually knock them out of the state playoffs.

Unfortunately for the Vikings, it was the latter that happened during their 80-69 loss to Hart County in the quarterfinals of the Class AAA state tournament on Saturday at Mount Zion High in Jonesboro.

East Hall was outrebounded 42-23 and shot a paltry 38 percent from the field in the loss and those two statistics were what Dix considered the main reason for the loss.

"Rebounding just killed us," Dix said. "I thought we handled their pressure well, but we just didn’t make enough shots and we didn’t do what we needed to do on the glass.

"But give Hart County credit, they did."

Another thing Dix had to give credit to his opponent’s for was their ability to battle back from the hot start by the Vikings.

After winning two close games in the first two rounds of the state playoffs, East Hall appeared as if they were going to run away with a win in the quarterfinals.

Behind a suffocating defense and the one-two punch of Dedric Ware and Ken Wise, the Vikings built a 24-13 lead after one quarter of play.

But the resilient Bulldogs (23-5) would not go away easily.

After Trevor Bishop hit a 3-pointer to increase the East Hall lead to 11 points, the Vikings went cold, and Hart County began to heat up.

The Bulldogs closed out the quarter on a 16-2 run to completely erase that 11-point deficit and take a one-point lead into halftime.

"In the first quarter we were off and running," Dix said. "I think Hart County kind of bowed up after that and our kids wavered a bit.

"That’s been part of our problem all year," he added. "If you don’t put away good teams, they’re going to get you."

And that’s exactly what Hart County did.

After a 5-0 personal run by Wise, the Vikings began to struggle from the field. And while they struggled, Hart County used its quickness and aggressiveness to create easy shots. And on the rare occasion those shots didn’t fall, the Bulldogs were able to create contact and get to the free throw line.

On the game, Hart County made one less free throw (20) than East Hall attempted all game.

Their ability to hit free throws allowed the Bulldogs to enter the fourth quarter with a six-point lead.

But ironically, it was a missed free throw that proved to be the game changer.

Down by four with 2:20 to play in the game, Dix decided to start to foul Hart County to try and keep the game close and prevent stalling.

Hart County’s Dontarrius Clinckscales made that strategy work and fail all in one play. Rucker missed the front end of the one-and-one, but Jamarkus Walker was able to grab the offensive rebound and found a wide-open Clinckscales, who knocked down a 3-pointer from the corner.

The Bulldogs never looked back.

"That hurt us," Dix said of the play. "(After that shot) that was pretty much all she wrote."

Kurvin Curry, who finished the game with 15 points and five rebounds, finished the Vikings off with two made free throws with 1:17 remaining that increased Hart County’s lead to nine points.

Curry was one of four Bulldogs to score in double figures, with Lorendrick Davis and the brothers Dontarious and Quint Clinkscales all scoring 12.

East Hall was led by Wise, who scored 17 points and pulled down 10 rebounds in his final game as a Viking. Fellow senior Ware finished with 14 points, while Kiante Young added 12.

Ware, Wise and the other five seniors on East Hall’s roster finish their high school careers with a record of 113-13, and according to Dix, that should be what’s remembered, not the finish to their career.

"This loss doesn’t diminish what these seniors have accomplished," Dix said. "It’s been an amazing run and a lot of kids would kill for that kind of career. But the ones you lose still hurt."

Friends to Follow social media