By Mike Goodson
If Gaston High boys head basketball coach Jesse Chandler came to the Etowah County Basketball Tournament looking for improvement in his Bulldogs, he came to the right place.
For 16 minutes on Monday (Jan. 16), No. 5 seed Gaston played toe-to-toe with the favored No. 4 seed Hokes Bluff Eagles, and the game’s outcome was very much in doubt with the score tied 25-25 at halftime.
“I’m proud of the way we played,” said Chandler. “We fought to the end. We didn’t give up and I’m happy the way we played.”
To begin the second half, however, Hokes Bluff’s Logan Harp came off of the bench and started hitting 3-pointers to provide a needed spark for the Eagles. Harp shot 4-for-5 from the field and knocked down three treys to score 11 of his 12 points in the third quarter as Hokes Bluff raced to a 48-37 lead. Fisher Simmons added eight points during the run. The Eagles (11-9) then out-scored Gaston 16-12 over the final eight minutes for the 64-49 win in the opening round of the tournament at Glencoe High School.
Hokes Bluff head coach Jeff Noah was somewhat happy with his team’s performance. “We did just enough to win. We had good intentions and came out strong, but we could not put them away in the first half. Needless to say I was not happy at halftime.”
The game started rather slowly, with Hokes Bluff taking an 11-10 lead after the first quarter. The Eagles pulled away at 23-13 with 3:34 to go in the half, only to watch Gaston go on a 12-2 run down the stretch to knot the score at 25-25 at intermission.
Hokes Bluff had three men in double figures. Landon Johnson led the Eagles with 21 points, followed by Simmons and Harp with 12 points each.
Gaston was led by JaShon Chinn with 22 points.
Hokes Bluff will face No. 1 seed Southside on Wednesday in the semifinal round.