Watching game tape in the hotel Friday night, Glencoe coach John Lazenby made what turned out to be an accurate prediction.
“I said, ‘You know who’s due for a breakout game? Hunter Hall,’ ” the coach recalled.
Hall lived out the coach’s words with a game-high 24 points, including a pair of breakaway baskets off crucial steals, as second-ranked Glencoe defeated No. 1 Weleetka 54-50 for the Class A boys basketball state championship Saturday at State Fair Arena.
“Hunter got in the middle of Weleetka’s 3-2 zone and just had a field day,” Lazenby said.
Hall had only 14 total points in the first two state tournament games, but the 6-foot-4 sophomore found his rhythm Saturday, hitting 11 of 19 field goals and grabbing nine rebounds to bring Glencoe its second gold ball in boys basketball, the first coming in 2006.
With three guards who average double-figure points, the Panthers usually don’t turn to Hall as one of their first offensive options. But he was on Saturday.
“Weleetka really spaces the floor out with their zone, so we had the game plan to get it inside,” Hall said. “We really executed the offense pretty well.”
Jake Lazenby scored 12 points for the Panthers (31-1), while Ty Lazenby added 10, including the two clinching free throws with 9.2 seconds left.
Weleetka (27-3) got 17 points from Caleb Wittman, 12 from Montana Gormly, 11 from Shaun Bencoma and 10 from Jeremiah Winney.
Glencoe showed its offensive balance throughout the state tournament run, with Kagen Castlebury and Ty Lazenby each producing 20-point games before Saturday.
But Hall stepped to the forefront when his opportunity came.
“Those two breakaway steals were what broke their back,” Jake Lazenby said of Hall’s day. “We knew they were gonna guard the perimeter, so we knew if we got it to Hunter in the middle, he’s great with that midrange jumper and he can attack the goal. We knew he was gonna have a big night.”
For John Lazenby and his sons, Saturday’s win was the fruit of a laborious process. John Lazenby coached five teams to state, but this was his first time tor reach the championship game.
For years, when he was coaching at Chattanooga and Cyril, he and his sons would drive past the Big House.
“Every time, we’d say, ‘Dad, we’re gonna go there and win a gold ball,’” Jake Lazenby said. “It’s always been a dream. One team out of 96 teams gets the gold ball. It’s just unreal.”