GAINESVILLE -- It's been a roller-coaster season for the Gainesville boys basketball team so far.
Coach Benjie Wood is hoping that after Saturday's 72-66, come-from-behind win over rival East Hall, everyone is ready to get off.
The game mirrored their season to this point. The Red Elephants fell down by nine (12-3) in the opening minutes, rallied to take a halftime lead (32-27), fell behind again early in the third quarter (36-32), retook the lead late in third quarter, and held on with free throws down the stretch.
The Red Elephants (12-9) opened the season losing four of their first five games, then won seven of nine, and are just 4-3 in their last seven games, including Saturday's win.
"This was a good win for us," Wood said. "I thought we made some strides as a team in this game. Hopefully this will lead to a little more consistency."
Junior Luke Maddox was the catalyst late in the third quarter for the Elephants after East Hall (10-10) tied the game at 48 on a pair of Kyvon Davenport free throws.
Maddox hit a long 3-pointer with 31 seconds left in the third quarter to give Gainesville a lead it would never relinquish and added a running jumper to open the fourth and assisted on the first of two Rodney Lackey baskets as the Elephants opened up a 57-48 lead in less than two minutes.
East Hall would get within five points three times, the final time at 65-60 with 1:03 left on a Caleb Holtzclaw 3-pointer, but Gainesville would hit 7-of-12 free throws in the final minute to hold off the Vikings.
"The guys made some plays at key times. We actually missed more free throws than usual but it was enough to get it done," Wood said.
The difference was at the free throw line and behind the 3-point arc. Gainesville was 21-of-36 on free throws and hit 6-of-17 3-pointers while East Hall was just 18-for-32 at the line and hit just 3-of-13 3-pointers.
Maddox and Lackey each finished with 20 points to lead Gainesville. Maddox added five assists and three steals with 17 of his points coming in the second half. Nam Van Dolm added 14 points and four rebounds for the Elephants.
The Vikings, who lost for the first time in their last four road games, were led by Davenport, who dominated the game early. Davenport finished with 24 points, 13 points, and six blocks but had 12 points, 10 rebounds, and five blocks in the first half.
Jacques Hopkins finished with 15 points, including all three of East Hall's 3-pointers, and Roderick Hughey had 10 points and eight rebounds for the Vikings.
East Hall came out hot to start the game running out to a 12-3 lead behind Davenport, who had six points, three rebounds, and three blocks in the first five minutes. The Vikings also forced five Gainesville turnovers in the opening minutes.
But the Elephants responded behind Maddox and their defense. Maddox assisted on a pair baskets to help them close to 16-10 by the end of the first quarter. Maddox then scored on back-to-back possessions, including a steal and layup, to pull them within 16-14.
After having just two turnovers in the first quarter, East Hall turned the ball over six times in the second, including on four straight possessions to help the Elephants grab the lead.
Gainesville caught and passed East Hall on a three-point play by JD Sosebee for its first lead at 21-20 midway through the second quarter. East Hall's Hopkins tied the game at 27 on a 3-pointer but Van Dolm closed out the half with five consecutive points, including a 3-pointer, to give Gainesville a 32-27 halftime lead.
The only blemish on the game was at the end when some Gainesville fans and East Hall coach Joe Dix exchanged words as the teams got ready to line up to shake hands.
"It was a typical Gainesville-East Hall game. Both teams played hard and there was a lot of intensity," Wood said. "You don't like to see things like that. Joe is one of my great friends and what we need is for fans to remember that it's just a game and we're all Hall Countians."
GAINESVILLE GIRLS 56,
EAST HALL 27
The Lady Red Elephants continued their strong play of late with their fourth straight win.
Gainesville (17-4) never trailed in getting a measure of revenge after falling to East Hall two weeks ago.
Kabree Randolph and Sophia Jackson each had 10 points to lead Gainesville, which won two of the three meetings between the cross-town rivals this season. Paisley Lee added eight points for the Lady Elephants, who had 10 different players score.
Jenny Edwards paced East Hall (10-11) with 17 points. The Lady Vikings have struggled on the road with just a 1-5 record this season.
The first half was all Lady Elephants and set the stage for the lopsided win. They held East Hall scoreless in the first quarter forcing four turnovers while the Lady Vikings went 0-for-9 from the field, including 0-for-6 from 3-point range.
Gainesville jumped out to a 10-0 as a result. East Hall would not get its first points until 6:17 left in the half on a basket by Jatasia Bailey. But Gainesville would go on a 8-2 run and then close out the final 1:26 with a 6-2 run for a 26-10 halftime lead.
After taking Dawson County to overtime the night before, East Hall could get very little going. In the first half the Lady Vikings were just 3-for-17 from the field, 0-for-9 from 3-point range.
Gainesville, meanwhile, was 11-for-19 from the field and dished out five assists as a team. The Lady Elephants also outrebounded East Hall 14-5 in the first half.
The second half saw Gainesville use a 14-6 run for a 40-16 lead and the Lady Elephants would lead 42-20 after the third quarter. East Hall never got closer than 18 after halftime.