RABBITTOWN -- The historical significance of Gainesville's 72-60 win over rival East Hall Saturday at the East Hall gym was not lost on boys coach Todd Cottrell.
It was the first win for the Red Elephants (10-9) over East Hall (7-12) at Valhalla since 1999.
"We knew it hadn't been done in a while and it means a lot to us and the program to finally get a win here," he said. "It's HARD to win here. That's because they always have good teams."
The Elephants were able to break through this time because of stellar defense and rebounding. They outrebounded East Hall 33-29 for the game but dominated the second half with a 17-8 edge to help them pull away late.
"I feel like our defense has been playing well overall," Cottrell said. "I was real proud of how we rebounded the ball. That was a big key."
Chase England was a force for Gainesville inside with 15 rebounds alone to go with 16 points.
Another key for Gainesville was at the free throw line, where they have struggled at times this season. The Elephants were 17-of-25 for the game but hit 12-of-16 in the final 2:13 of the game to keep the Vikings at bay.
"That was good to see because that is an area we have been working on," Cottrell said.
The score doesn't indicate how tight the game was for the first three quarters. East Hall led 14-10 after the first quarter, which had five lead changes, on the strength of an 8-1 run to close out the period. The Vikings would open up a 19-13 lead early in the second quarter on a basket by Brian Edwards and then Edwards would give them a 25-18 lead with 2:44 left in the half on a driving layup.
But Gainesville's Shaquan Cantrell finally got going scoring seven points in an 11-0 run for the Elephants to close out the first half for a 29-25 lead. Cantrell and the Elephants picked up where they left off to begin the second half.
Cantrell poured in seven more points a 13-6 run in the first four minutes to push Gainesville's lead to 42-31. But Edwards sparked a 7-0 run for East Hall to finish the third quarter and Hayden Chapman drained a long 3-pointer on the opening points of the fourth quarter to pull the Vikings to within 44-41 with 6:42 left.
But Gainesville would answer to put the game out of reach. Four different Gainesville players would score in a 16-4 run, capped by a steal and dunk by Deshaun Watson, to give the Elephants a 60-45 lead with 2:30 left in the game.
Gainesville would then seal the win at the line.
"I thought this was one of the more complete games we've played this year," Cottrell said. "We did a good job at the end. We're getting better and that's what we want to do at this point in the season."
Cantrell finished with 22 points to lead Gainesville to go with six rebounds. Watson finished with 14 points, three rebounds, seven assists, and three steals for the Elephants.
Edwards poured in a game-high 27 and had seven rebounds to pace East Hall. Chapman had 13 points for the Vikings.