When the Union County boys basketball team started the season 15-0, some thought they’d challenge East Hall for the subregion title.
The Vikings emphatically put an end to that debate with an 85-65 win Friday on senior night.
The 20-point win was East Hall’s eighth in a row, and with the way the defense played against Union County, the Vikings are poised to keep that win streak alive when the Region 8-AA tournament begins next week.
“Our coach (Joe Dix) always has high expectations for us,” said senior Kymon Woods, who finished with 13 points and eight steals. “He’s always pushing hard for perfection, and when he has high expectations for us, we have high expectations for ourselves.”
If Dix is looking for perfection, he practically got it in the first half when the Vikings (20-5, 10-0 Region 8A-AA) forced 20 turnovers, including five steals from Woods, to build a 23-point lead entering halftime.
“We were playing hard,” Dix said. “We were wound up and ready to go. Our kids came out and took control.”
Tight defense propelled the Vikings on a 13-0 run to close out the first quarter, and although they were in complete control when it happened, an intentional foul on a Woods’ dunk attempt in the second quarter pushed East Hall to another level.
Despite the disappointment of not converting the dunk, Woods was pleased with how his team reeled off 10 unanswered points and showed they wouldn’t be pushed around in their own gym.
“Our guys play for each other,” Woods said. “If one guy goes down, the whole team steps up.”
With a comfortable lead, the Vikings went on cruise control in the third quarter, but that backfired when the Panthers went on a 14-4 run to close the period. Led by five 3-pointers from James Rowe, the Panthers (19-4, 6-4) cut the deficit to 16 in the fourth before East Hall pulled away. Rowe finished with 18 points.
“I wish we could have closed out better,” Dix said. “We lost some intensity, and hopefully down the stretch we’ll be better.”
East Hall’s J.C. Hampton scored a game-high 22 points, while Dre Perry had 14 points and Brian Edwards and Chris Orr had 11. Orr also finished with four blocks, three of which came in the second quarter.
The Vikings had 10 players score, and with depth like that, Dix likes his team’s chances at winning the program’s first region title since 2007.
“It’s good to be peaking around this time,” Dix said. “None of these guys have won a region title, so they’re hungry.”
The team’s four seniors — Woods, Perry, Sterling Bailey and Chaz Cheeks — might be the hungriest.
“All four of them play hard and have been good for us all year,” Dix said. “This was a special night for them.”
The Vikings and Panthers open the Region 8-AA tournament Thursday at Hart County.
EAST HALL GIRLS 60, UNION COUNTY 32: Morgan Jackson scored a game-high 20 points and Jasmine Jenkins had 18 to lead the Lady Vikings to a blowout win Friday at East Hall.
Natalie Jackson had 10 points for the Lady Vikings (15-9, 6-4 Region 8B-AA), who are the No. 3 seed for the region tournament.
Becka Merritt and Tori Dyer led Union County (11-12, 4-6) with seven points.
Both teams begin the Region 8-AA tournament Monday at Elbert County.