RABBITTOWN — The East Hall boys may still be getting acclimated to new coach Seth Thompson’s offensive style. But one thing that has been a constant so far for the Vikings has been a tenacious defensive attitude.
The Vikings forced nearly 20 turnovers and held Banks County sharp-shooter Carl Cleveland in check for most of the 32 minutes in taking an impressive 74-62 win Friday night at the East Hall gym.
“Right now we’re playing really good defense as a team,” Thompson said. “I thought we did a great job on Carl early and kind of took them out of their game a little bit. The kids are really buying into playing tough on that end.”
The loss for the Leopards (2-3) snapped their two-game road winning streak where they averaged 84 points a game behind Cleveland, who was the Conditioned Air Systems Player of the Week last week after pouring in 45 points in a win over Stephens County. He finished with 27 to lead the Leopards but he had 15 in the fourth quarter after East Hall (3-2) had built a 20-point lead.
Banks County started out hot as Pierce Martin hit a pair of 3-pointers in a quick 8-2 blitz in the first two minutes. But Jamir Earls ignited a 12-2 East Hall run that was capped by a T.J. Campbell trey to give the Vikings a 17-12 lead to end the first quarter.
Campbell and Kylan Curry opened the second quarter with 3-pointers as East hall quickly pushed its lead to 23-13. A Cleveland 3-pointer with 1:44 left in the first half pulled Banks County within 27-25 but the Vikings used a 13-0 run over the next 3:15 into the third quarter for a 40-25 advantage. Javion Rucker later ignited another big run with a steal and thunderous dunk.
The Leopards twice cut the lead to 10 points in the fourth quarter but could get no closer.
Curry finished with a team-high 23 points, 16 in the second half, while Rucker had 17 for the Vikings. Campbell finished with 16 points, including four 3-pointers for East Hall.
Martin added 15 points for Banks County while Clay Gosnell had 8 points.
The Vikings are not employing the full run-and-gun style that has defined them over the past 20-plus seasons. But Thompson said they still want to push the ball and shoot 3-pointers.
“We’re doing a few different things on offense and it’s taking a little time for the kids to get used to that,” Thompson said. “We’re not playing quite as fast as (former coach) Joe (Dix) did and he might be a little upset with that. But I like shooting the three and layups and that’s what we’re working on.
“I think the big thing right now is really just how good the guys are playing on the defensive end. They’re playing hard and that’s all we can ask.”
BANKS COUNTY GIRLS 51,
EAST HALL 35
Banks County never trailed and used a multiple of defensive looks to keep the Lady Vikings at bay to sweep the season series between the two nearby rivals. The Lady Leopards (5-0) took the season-opener 47-34 two weeks ago in Homer.
The Lady Leopards forced 19 East Hall turnovers, including seven in the fourth quarter, as they turned a tight 34-28 lead into the lopsided finish.
Banks County coach Steve Shedd said he was more than pleased with his squad’s defensive intensity.
“We’re able to give teams a lot of different looks and I thought we did a good job of creating some pressure,” he said.
It as a quick start for the Lady Leopards as they jumped out to 11-0 and then 16-3 leads fueled by five East Hall turnovers and a pair of 3-pointers from Heather Vaughan.
But the Lady Vikings (1-4) used a 5-0 run early in the second quarter to pull within 16-8 and an Aaliyah Ellison 3-pointer got them within 23-16 at halftime.
Banks County opened the third quarter with a 9-4 spurt to push the lead back to 32-20 but an 8-2 run by East Hall got the Lady Vikings within 34-28 with 6:18 left in the game. But Amber Williams scored 6 of her game-high 13 points to go with 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal in the final 4:03 as Banks County closed out the game on a 17-7 run.
“East Hall is a very scrappy team and keeps coming at you,” Shedd said. “But I thought we did a good job at the end of creating some turnovers and limiting their offense.”
Vaughan finished with 11 points and Jaycie Bowen had 8 for Banks County.
Audrey Griffin paced East Hall with 9 points. Carley Cox had 5 points as 10 different Lady Vikings scored.