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High school basketball: Cherokee Bluff girls start fast, win region opener against North Hall
Basketball 2022
Cherokee Bluff's Kaitlin Cook (20) drives past a North Hall defender during the game Dec. 7, 2021 in Gainesville. Photo by Bill Murphy

The opening night of Region 7 3A girls basketball came down to the wire. 

In the end, Cherokee Bluff held on, in large part to its execution, to beat North Hall 61-59 on Tuesday in Gainesville. 

It was also helped secure the programs first-ever win over its county-rival North Hall.

“It was a great effort,” Cherokee Bluff coach Lindsay Justice said. “They have to expect these types of region games. We play in one of the toughest regions in the state.”

Justice credits the team’s ability to have some time off in order to work on being a lot tougher on both ends of the floor. Cherokee Bluff made some plays down the stretch in the fourth quarter to help secure its lead. One of those defensive standouts was Emilee Scott. 

The Lady Bears’ senior guard forced a North Hall turnover that could have cut into their 55-51 lead.

Cherokee Bluff extended the lead in getting the ball inside to freshman Taliah Gaither, who finished the evening with a career-high 21 points and 11 rebounds. 

“She was huge for us,” Justice said. “She has so much potential.”

Justice can say the same about her team’s effort in this region opener.

The Lady Bears opened up the game with hot shooting. 

Scott started things off with her 3-point shooting, while Gaither anchored the interior. 

After the first eight minutes of the game, Cherokee Bluff held a 27-13 lead. There was just so much balance throughout the quarter and the game for Cherokee Bluff. 

Scott finished with 12 points, while Finley Millwood added 10 points for Cherokee Bluff. 

North Hall, however, refused to let up. 

They Lady Trojans’ 3-point shooting kept them in the game.

It did not matter which player in a North Hall uniform had the ball. 

If they found themselves open and there was a chance, a 3-point attempt was likely to follow. 

North Hall cut the lead at halftime 31-27, outscoring the Lady Bears 14-3 in the second quarter.

“It was a very good basketball game,” North Hall coach Kristi House said. “We came out flat, for some reason. We got down big. Then we were able to come back, but we got down again. The kids are doing what we’re asking them to do.

“A couple of plays here and there. It was a good basketball game. I am proud of our kids who didn’t fold.”

Up next, Cherokee Bluff (3-3, 1-0 Region 7-3A) travels visits East Forsyth on Friday in Gainesville. 

On Friday, North Hall (5-1, 0-1) visits West Hall in Oakwood. 

NORTH HALL BOYS 76, CHEROKEE BLUFF 60: Trojans coach Miles Kendall knows the importance of winning home games. 

Winning at home is essential because of how competitive Region 7-3A is overall and on the road.

“Region home wins are huge,” Kendall said. “We want to win every game at home.”

For most of the first quarter, North Hall (6-1, 1-0 Region 7-3A) made sure it was going to hold onto its home court with its shooting and willingness to share the basketball. 

The defense picked up late once some players’ shooting went cold. 

Also, each players enthusiasm for the other picked up as the Trojans made one hustle play after another for an easy basket.

North Hall’s Andrew Bales was a major catalyst. 

The sophomore forward dominated the interior with a few outside shots for a game-high 24 points. He was active on both ends of the floor, which ignited the North Hall student section.

Whenever Bales was not putting forth a strong effort, Robert Terry poured in 20 points. 

Edward Doig added 10 points in the win. 

“We tried to be a complete team,” Kendall said. “We have kids who don’t play selfish.”

Now, the Trojans did not let the shooting slump fester into the team’s defensive intensity. 

North Hall’s full court pressure forced the Bears (2-2, 0-1) into a slew of turnovers or rushed shots. 

The Trojans just disrupted any offensive rhythm Cherokee Bluff was looking for all game.

The Bears’ Cade Simmons finished with a team-high 20 points. Carlos Marlow added 14 points.

Cherokee Bluff visits East Forsyth on Friday in Gainesville.