RABBITTOWN -- After watching his team get manhandled the night before by Clarke Central in a lethargic effort, Gainesville boys basketball coach Benjie Wood was a little apprehensive as the Red Elephants got ready to take on cross-town rival East Hall on the road Saturday.
"I just hope the team from last night doesn't show up," he said during the shoot-around.
Instead, a focused and energetic Gainesville squad led from start to finish in a 73-66 victory that had Wood breathing a little easier afterwards.
"We really needed that," he said. "Will it be a confidence boost for us? We'll have to see. We're still a young team. But they showed what they're capable of tonight."
Luke Maddox paced the offense with 24 points, including going 12-of-14 at the free throw line, and Ithello Cross did the dirty work on defense holding East Hall's Kyvon Davenport to just 10 points and 11 rebounds -- below his season averages (19 points, 15 rebounds).
"Ithello played a heck of a game. (Davenport) is a tremendous player and tough to guard and I thought Ithello did fantastic," Wood said.
The game was tied just once at 2-2 and Gainesville (9-7) used a 12-3 run over the final 4:50 of the first quarter to take control. The Red Elephants dominated the boards (19-13) and forced 11 East Hall turnovers to extend the lead to 37-22 by halftime.
Gainesville built its biggest lead at 41-22 moments into the third quarter and it looked like a rout was underway. But the Vikings finally found their stroke.
On the final play of the third quarter, East Hall's Caleb Holtzclaw drained the first of three consecutive 3-pointers, as the Vikings trimmed the lead to 50-46 with 7:06 left in the game. Gainesville responded with an 8-2 run but a 3-pointer by Antonio Maddox pulled East Hall back within 60-55 with 3:17 left.
Jay Gaudlock's 3-pointer 90 seconds later pushed Gainesville's lead back to 67-58 with 1:47 remaining, but the Vikings had one last gasp.
Davenport converted a three-point play and then Jacquen Hopkins completed another three-point play to get East Hall within 68-66 with 50 seconds left to play.
Gainesville's Maddox closed the door, however. He hit two free throws, swiped a Vikings pass and sunk two more free throws, and then forced an East Hall turnover in the next 30 seconds to help seal the win.
"Luke slowed himself down on offense and made some big plays for us," Wood said. "Every game you have with a Joe Dix team is going to be tough. We're good friends and it's always fun to play against him. We were fortunate to get a win this time."
For Gainesville, Gaudlock finished with 12 points, JD Sosebee had 11 and Rodney Lackey added 10. Cross finished with six points and 13 rebounds for the Elephants.
Antonio Maddox paced East Hall (7-8) with 16 points, including three 3-pointers. Tristan Cooper added nine for the Vikings.
East Hall will look to bounce back at Banks County on Tuesday. Gainesville, meanwhile, will play host to Apalachee on Friday.
EAST HALL GIRLS 49,
The Lady Vikings got a measure of revenge with a thrilling win at home Saturday night.
Gainesville had beaten East Hall 59-43 in the Lanierland Tournament earlier in the season.
This time, East Hall used an aggressive press to slow down Gainesville's offense while beating the Lady Red Elephants at their own game for most of the first three quarters.
The Lady Vikings hit 4-of-7 3-pointers in the first half, held Gainesville to 0-for-7 from 3-point range, and built a 25-13 halftime lead. The Lady Elephants led just once, 2-0, and East Hall took the lead for good closing out the first quarter on a 10-3 run.
Gainesville would not get that close again until the final seconds. The Lady Red Elephants' hit three 3-pointers in a 20-second span to pull within the final score with just under two seconds left but could not get the turnover as East Hall was able to inbound the ball and run the clock out.
East Hall coach Justin Wheeler said his group is starting to show some age.
"We grew up some tonight," Wheeler said. "We lost some games early where we had big leads so to hold on at the end was big. The girls executed the game plan and that's all we can ask. I'm proud of them."
Jatasia Bailey led East Hall (8-7) with 19 points but had two key steals late in the fourth quarter to help slow down Gainesville's comeback. Jenny Edwards and Chelsea Dale each finished with 11 points for the Lady Vikings.
Taylor Hawks and Paisley Lee had 11 points apiece to lead Gainesville.
East Hall came out firing in the first half. The Lady Vikings used an efficient slow-down offense to open up the shooting lanes and Dale took advantage draining two 3-pointers to help them build a 10-5 lead after the first quarter.
Gainesville, meanwhile, could not get its running game going. The Lady Red Elephants committed three early turnovers that led to East Hall points and went 0-for-7 from 3-point range in the half.
East Hall used its defense to extend the lead in the second quarter. The Lady Vikings held Gainesville to just two field goals over the final 5:21 of the quarter while using a 15-4 run to spark a 25-13 halftime lead.
East Hall out-rebounded Gainesville 10-5 in the first half.