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Big fourth quarter lifts North Hall girls past White County in region tourney

Lady Trojans punch ticket to state playoffs with win

POSTED: February 15, 2014 10:09 p.m.
Jared Putnam | The Times/

North Hall's Katie Sayres puts up a shot over White County's Kaitlin Wilson during the Region 7-AAA quarterfinals on Saturday at North Hall High.

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After missing out on the state playoffs a season ago, the North Hall girls basketball team is heading back to a place it expects to be come late February.

The Lady Trojans used a powerful fourth quarter to rout the White County Lady Warriors 56-37 on Saturday in the opening round of the Region 7-AAA tournament, clinching a berth in the Class AAA state playoffs.

“There is a lot left but we expect to make the state tournament each year,” North Hall coach Kristi House said. “We are disappointed when we don’t. Last year it was a little bit disappointing.

“I hoped our kids would be hungrier coming back and we would be able to go and compete for that. It is special, not just on the court, but the special stuff you get to do with the kids off the court and the special experiences they get to have.”

Leading by just four points heading into the final quarter, the Lady Trojans (18-8) outscored the Lady Warriors 17-2, using a high-intensity defense to force several White County (13-11) turnovers that led to easy fast break points on the opposite end.

Sadie Cleveland started the run with a field goal, which was immediately followed by a layup from Taylor Anne Kelley that pushed the Lady Trojans’ lead to nine, 44-35.

“Definitely the first half wasn’t our best,” said Cleveland, only a freshman. “But I think the third and fourth quarter we all wanted to win, we all wanted to get to state. I think that’s what clicked for us.”

Sarah Hollifield then made four straight free throws, the last of which was followed by a steal and a Sydney Cleveland layup to make the score 51-35.

“We keep preaching that the game is going to be won on the defensive end, not the offensive end,” House said. “So we weren’t happy with our effort early on, but I’m glad we pulled it out and got it going in the fourth.”

The fourth-quarter push came after a rather sluggish start for the North Hall girls. Playing against a White County squad that entered Saturday’s game riding a seven-game losing streak, the Lady Trojans found themselves trailing 13-11 midway through the opening quarter.

A quick 7-0 run gave North Hall a 20-13 lead at the end of the first quarter before White County closed its deficit to five points, 30-25, at halftime. The Lady Warriors closed within four, 39-35, heading into the fourth quarter.

“There were times when our (coaching) staff was looking at each other and we didn’t know how we were still ahead,” House admitted. “Our kids tried to stick with the game plan and we started playing better defense.”

Nine different Lady Trojans scored in Saturday’s win. Sadie Cleveland finished with a game-high 13 points to lead North Hall. Kelley finished with eight points, and Kensi Gillespie and Katie Sayres contributed seven.

“We all have a lot of talent,” Cleveland said. “It’s not like one individual person. It is a team deal. We win as a team.”

Jordan Taylor led White County with 12 points.

The North Hall girls will face East Hall Monday at 4 p.m. in the region tournament semifinals at Buford High School.

East Hall upset Banks County in the first game on Saturday at North Hall High, giving the Lady Trojans some time to sit back and scout their next opponent.

“I expect intensity,” Cleveland said. “East Hall is a very good team and they’re a very pressure team. We have to bring our game.”


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