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Taylor: Talented senior class leading North Hall girls

POSTED: February 26, 2012 9:34 p.m.

Kristi House could see this coming.

Maybe not to this extent, but the North Hall High girls basketball coach knew she had something special in the class of 2012.

"We knew it was a special class coming in," House said minutes after advancing to the second round of the state tournament with Saturday night's 51-41 win over Pickens. "It was a good group. We realized that coming in."

In middle school the current crop of Lady Trojans seniors reached the Hall County championship game for North Hall Middle.

As high school seniors they've already won the first region title since 1991, when House was a key component of the team. And now the group is in the second round of the state tournament for the first time in their high school careers.

"It's definitely a relief," said senior point guard Taylor Swoszowski, who House calls the team's emotional leader. "Everybody has told us that this year is the year. "We've put it together at the right time."

Now they'll be playing the same team they lost to 62-57 last year in the opening round, No. 6 Carrollton. Only this time North Hall (22-7) has the home court, and the six North Hall seniors know that this is the final ride in their high school careers.

They're still enjoying the ride.

"We've worked very hard for this," said 5-foot-11 senior guard McKenna Rushton. "So I'm proud of our team and what we've accomplished.

"I knew we could make it far if we stayed together and worked as a team."

Rushton, a four-year starter, and her twin sister Mary Kate have led the team this year on offense at 13 points per game apiece. Both also surpassed 1,000 points scored for their careers earlier in the season, a testament to their success, and longevity, in the program.

They, along with Swoszowski (eight points, four rebounds a game) account for half of talented senior class. It's one that includes guard Hailen Nichols, defensive specialist Tiffany Hamilton and the force in the paint, Sarah Paschall.

The seniors aren't the only contributors -- freshman forward Sydney Cleveland has had her moments and a couple of juniors, including Allie Staub and Kalyn Howard, have played important roles -- but the Lady Trojans seniors are certainly the core of this team. Five of the six started in Saturday's game and the seniors combined for 44 of the team's 51 in the 10-point win.

Throughout this season the senior core has been the driving force as North Hall won nine of its last 11 to capture the Subregion 8-AAA North title and then three straight in the region tournament, all by double digits, to grab the program's first No. 1 seed entering the state tournament in two decades.

Along the way the Lady Trojans have outscored opponents by an average of 11 points per outing, with a subregion-high 57 points scored per game.

Carrollton will present a tough challenge, but this is a senior class that has met its share of challenges.

From a championship game appearance in middle school to the second round of the GHSA state tournament, the North Hall class of 2012 has already overcome a number of obstacles.

"We have a very special team this year," Swoszowski said. "We knew we were supposed to go further."

The class of 2012 continues to live up to its promise.

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



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