White County coach Sam Borg emphasized the need to have composure to his team at halftime of Tuesday’s game at East Hall.
As it turned out, composure was exactly what the Warriors needed to stave off a late comeback from the Vikings and secure a 94-88 win in Gainesville.
“Halftime was good for us to sit down and take a deep breath,” Borg said. “They came out hungry (in the second half).”
After trailing by seven at halftime, the Warriors (15-7, 6-6 Region 7-AAA) used a massive 31-point third quarter, including a 19-2 run to close out the quarter, to take a double-digit lead over the Vikings heading into the fourth quarter.
Once there, the Vikings (12-11, 8-4) rallied in the closing minutes by sending the Warriors to the free throw line on nearly every possession.
While White County missed an occasional foul shot, East Hall started to find its groove from 3-point range, and quickly found itself trailing by one three, 91-88, with 23 seconds remaining.
That’s when composure was once again needed for the Warriors.
With momentum on the side of East Hall, the Warriors used a free throw from Whit Mauney, back-to-back free throws from Spencer Adams and a pair of defensive rebounds on the final two East Hall possessions to secure the win.
“That was the perfect strategy — foul us every time and make us shoot foul shots,” Borg said, crediting East Hall’s coaching staff. “We had to make enough free throws to win. We tried to give it away at the foul line, but we made just enough to win.”
Moving forward, Borg said he hopes a road win over East Hall — a rarity for a program like White County — will give his team enough momentum heading into the final two games of the regular season and into Tuesday’s opening round of the Region 7-AAA tournament.
“Winning here, I can’t tell you the last time White County won here in basketball,” Borg said. “It is a big win for our program. I’m real proud of our kids. We are playing a lot of guys and they know their roles. They’re very selfless.”
White County’s selflessness was apparent on Tuesday. Six Warriors finished the game in double-figures, led by Mauney’s 19 points. Will Gearing scored 18 points off the bench, Adams finished with 15, Jordan Egerton with 12, Juwan Dorsey with 11 and Maurice Sutton with 10.
Antonio Maddox led East Hall with 19 points, while Jacquen Hopkins finished with 15 points. Tristan Cooper finished with 11 and Rod Hughey contributed with 10.
A major component of White County’s massive third-quarter was its ability to shut down East Hall post player Kyvon Davenport, and take advantage of the post when Davenport, who finished with just nine points, was resting on the bench.
“Davenport is a great post player. We went inside hard when he was out of the game,” Borg said. “We made it a priority. We don’t have one kid that can guard (Davenport), but as a team we feel like we can be scrappy and block him out.”
East Hall rallied from a 22-21 deficit at the start of the second quarter, using a 20-13 run across the final 6:40 of the first half to grab a 46-39 lead. During that run, seven different Vikings scored from either the free throw line or the field.
Both teams were in the double bonus by the 4:43 mark of the second quarter, which gave way to both teams getting their fair share of free-throw attempts in the opening half.
EAST HALL GIRLS 49, WHITE COUNTY 45: Jatasia Bailey scored 19 points as the Lady Vikings earned a region victory on Tuesday night in Gainesville.
Jenny Edwards finished with 12 points for the Lady Vikings (11-12, 4-8 Region 7-AAA) while Ashlyn Ellison contributed with 10.
East Hall led the majority of the game, taking a 16-10 lead at the end of the first quarter, a 23-21 advantage at the end of the second quarter and a 37-28 lead at the end of the third.
White County (13-8, 5-7) closed back in early in the fourth quarter, though. The Lady Warriors used an 11-4 run to open the quarter, evening the score at 41-41.
From there, the Lady Vikings rebounded and closed the game on a 8-4 run, scoring the final four points from the free throw line.
Paige Thomas and Abbey Craven each finished with 12 points to lead White County, while Kaitlin Wilson added 11.
East Hall closes out the regular season with a home game against Banks County on Friday and a visit to Fannin County on Saturday. White County finishes the regular season with a game against Buford on Thursday and a visit to Fannin County on Friday.