Posted: Saturday, February 8th 2014 at 6:34am
Basketball: Vikings' offense keeps pace in race for No. 2 seed; Banks girls win thriller
By Morgan Lee Editor
East Hall's Tristan Cooper, right, looks to make an acrobatic lay-up against Banks County's Austin Venable in the Vikings' win on Friday in Rabbittown.
RABBITTOWN -- East Hall served notice on Friday -- it may just be finding its rhythm at the perfect time.
Facing a must-win situation for a chance at the No. 2 seed from Region 7-AAA -- and the league tournament just on the horizon – the Vikings responded with an explosive performance, running past Banks County 80-69 in Valhalla.
East Hall seized a 23-13 lead after the first quarter and never turned loose, blistering the Leopards with 10 3-pointers and a dominant second half performance from Kyvon Davenport, who put up 20 of his game-high 23 points after the interval to go along with 17 rebounds.
“When Kyvon plays like that, we're a hard team to beat," East Hall coach Joe Dix said. “But we got it from a lot of people tonight.”
Indeed, the Vikings (13-11, 9-4 Region 7-AAA) shot 49 percent from the floor as a team, nailed 80 percent of their free throws and 45 percent of their 3-point attempts to ensure they stayed in step with Dawson County -- which also won on Friday -- in the race for the No. 2 seed in 7-AAA (Buford has locked up the No. 1 spot).
"My old coach used to say when you shoot like that it covers up a multitude of sins,” Dix said. “That may have been our best offensive performance of the season. We told the guys earlier this week that every game from here on out is a playoff game, and they have responded.”
East Hall found its range from the opening tip, as Tristan Cooper and Jacquen Hopkins each drilled 3-pointers in the first quarter to grab the momentum and a 19-6 lead.
The Leopards (13-11, 6-7) fought back through the inside play of Austin Venable and Zac Orr, including 10 first half points from Venable, but the Vikings answered every run with one of their own, including a 9-2 push midway through the second quarter on the strength of back-to-back 3-pointers from Antonio Maddox for a 33-20 advantage.
Maddox bombed away for five treys on the night and finished with 19 points -- 11 of that coming in the second quarter, as East Hall took a 43-31 halftime advantage. Cooper also added 14 points, including four 3-pointers, while Hopkins finished with 10 – nine of that in the first half.
The second half, however, belonged to Davenport.
After managing just three first half points, the rangy junior caught fire in the third quarter, putting up 10 points via put-backs, lay-ups and jump shots while also grabbing five rebounds to keep Banks County at bay. Maddox also added another 3-pointer, as the Vikings’ lead ballooned to 60-45.
“Kyvon was just playing within the framework of the offense in the first half, and he wasn’t even worried about scoring – he’s an unselfish player,” Dix said. “We sometimes worry about getting him points, but he never does.”
The Leopards determination kept East Hall from turning the game into a rout, Zez Steeple doing the bulk of his scoring in the second half to finish with 22 points, but Davenport’s work inside -- and even a handful of 15-17 foot jumpers -- proved too much for the visitors. Maddox and Cooper also added one 3-pointer each in the fourth quarter for good measure.
“We’ve played a tough schedule; and I think in this region we’ve got six-seven teams capable of going to state,” Dix said. “We want to win out and be at our best next week (in the region tournament).”
Banks County has another chance to cast the deciding vote in the race on Saturday when the Leopards travel to face Dawson County in their final regular season game.
BANKS COUNTY GIRLS 43,
EAST HALL 41
Savanna Blalock drained a lay-up as time expired to push the Lady Leopards to a thrilling two-point win on Friday in Valhalla.
The game raged back and forth throughout, and East Hall knotted the score at 41-41 on two free throws from Jenny Edwards with 1:43 remaining, but Banks County, which led by three points at the start of the fourth quarter came up with the answer at the death.
Kaitlyn Duncan tied for a game-high 14 points to pace the Lady Leopards (18-6, 8-5 Region 7-AAA), who pulled into a tie with North Hall for the No. 2 seed in Region 7-AAA with the win. Taylor Kennedy also scored 13 points for Banks County.
Jenny Edwards tied for a game-high with 14 points for East Hall (11-13, 4-9), while Jatasia Bailey added 12.
The Lady Vikings will look to bounce back on Saturday at Fannin County.
Banks County will travel to Dawson County on Saturday knowing that a win and a North Hall loss (on Saturday vs. West Hall) would secure a No. 2 seed. Should both the Lady Leopards and Lady Trojans win, a coin toss would decide the No. 2 seed.
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