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Taylor: North Hall boys on a roll

POSTED: January 29, 2012 8:12 p.m.

At the Lanierland tournament last December, North Hall lost consecutive games to Gainesville in the semifinals and Flowery Branch in the third-place game.

With the tournament through, the Trojans had gone 1-2 in Lanierland and were 7-3 overall. They haven't lost since.

With Saturday's 79-72 win at East Hall, North Hall (19-3, 7-0 8-AAA North) extended its winning streak to 12 games and remains undefeated in the subregion.

"We lost to two good teams," said Trojans coach Benjie Wood, whose team lost by one to the Falcons. "We weren't too happy with the way we lost Flowery Branch.

"But we just really try to take it day by day."

North Hall continues to win and resembles much more the subregion champion 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 squads (which lost one subregion game combined) rather than last season's 16-11 team that finished just 6-4 in region play.

This season's Trojans are eyeing another 8-AAA North title. Three games remain on the regular season slate, all three in the subregion, including a game against White County Tuesday at home. The last two games are against the second and third place teams in the subregion, Franklin County (5-2) and Stephens County (4-3).

"We always want to finish strong," Wood said. "If we win two of three we'll be the subregion champs."

After a season where the team finished tied for second, getting back atop the subregion would be a big boost due to getting to play a home game to start the region tournament.

"We expect to go in and compete for championships," Wood said.

This year's team leads the chase for the subregion title with incredible balance -- six different players have led the team in scoring in a game this season, although none more so than Ebo Smith, who led all scorers with 32 to complete the season-sweep of East Hall.

"We pride ourselves on that, on being a true team," Wood said. "We've always prided ourselves on having multiple people to score."

The Trojans also pride themselves on solid defense and, even with East Hall scoring 72 points, North Hall has allowed 60 or more points in a game just four times this season, averaging just over 50 points allowed on defense.

Combine that with an average of 65 points per game scored on offense, and it's easy to see how this team has been so successful.

The Trojans haven't just feasted on an easy schedule either, as the team has played Hall County's best in a number of big rivalry games.

Wood enjoys those matchups, whether its one of 8-AAA's top teams in Gainesville, 8-A North leader Lakeview Academy, or 8-AA North's top team in East Hall.

"We play East Hall and it's such a healthy rivalry," Wood said. "We compete like crazy, but we can leave those feelings on the court and be good friends afterward.

"With the atmosphere that it brings, those are the games that will help you when you get to region or state tournament."

HALL COUNTY RIVALRY NOTES: While the North Hall boys have defeated East Hall twice, in addition to Lakeview Academy, Flowery Branch and others, it's the Gainesville boys which can best lay claim to the top boys team in the county, with a Lanierland title and only one loss to a Hall County school, East Hall, which the Red Elephants then beat to win Lanierland.

On the girls' side, one Hall County team stands above the rest.

The East Hall girls basketball team has already won the Lanierland tournament this year, giving them the claim to Hall County's best basketball team.

If that's not enough, the Lady Vikings (17-3, 5-1 8-AA North) have also not lost to a fellow Hall County school all year, going 8-0.

They are the only Hall County team to have done so all year, although they still have one more in-county rivalry game to go, a Feb. 4 meeting with Gainesville, a team the Lady Vikings have already beaten twice this season.

Zac Taylor is a sports writer for The Times. Contact him at ztaylor@gainesvilletimes.com.



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