Given the reputation for hot shooting from both the North Hall and Chestatee girls, it would’ve been tempting for fans to expect plenty of offense in the Region 8-4A, Subregion A game between the two Friday at Chestatee.
Instead, fans were treated to an aggressive, physical defensive slugfest, and while some of the offensive stars got their points, it was a pair of baskets from someone less heralded that made the difference.
Lexi Jarrard came up clutch with her only two buckets of the evening – a pair of 3-pointers – in the final three and a half minutes, the second of which came with 54 seconds left and gave the Lady Trojans the lead for good as they held on to down the No. 8 Lady War Eagles 53-51.
Later in the evening, Chestatee’s boys were on a mission to make amends after a disappointing outing in a crossover game against No. 6 North Oconee on Tuesday.
And the War Eagles took out their wrath on the North Hall, led by a milestone night from Colton Wilbanks and just as big game from Jarvis Weaver to roll to a 69-38 win.
Aside from a 7-0 run over the first three minute following the opening tip, the girls game was every bit as tight as one might expect a game between two teams battling for first place in the subregion.
North Hall (14-5, 7-2) and Chestatee (15-5, 7-2) exchanged the lead 15 times with six ties throughout the evening before the Lady Trojans prevailed to pull even with the Lady War Eagles in the subregion standings.
“It was an absolute war—back and forth, back and forth,” North Hall girls coach Eric Herrick said. “We beat the crap out of each other. That was a physical girls basketball game. Two hard-nosed, tough, physical teams. I challenged our team all week to match (Chestatee). That team over there plays extremely hard, and we just talked about trying to match their effort.”
After North Hall’s opening run, neither team led by any more than four points, and when it looked like one team might gain some breathing room, the other would fight back.
After the Lady Trojans led just 9-8 after one quarter, 21-20 at the half and 37-34 after three quarters, Caroline Bull knocked down a couple of 3-pointers to help Chestatee start the fourth on an 8-2 run to take a 42-39 lead following a pair of Riley Black free throws with 5:49 to play.
But Kristina Peach sparked North Hall’s answer with two free throws of her own, plus a driving layup and an assist on Athena Vachtsevanos’ 3-pointer for a 7-0 run that vaulted the Lady Trojans back in front at 46-42 with 4:25 to play.
Then after Addison Boyd pulled Chestatee back to within 46-45 with a trey, Jarrard came up with her heroics.
The senior forward popped out to the top of the key, took a feed from Peach and drained a 3 with 3:25 left to stretch the lead back to four a 49-45.
Still, Chestatee kept battling, with Bull hitting a pair of free throws with 2:23 left, and Black hitting a pullup jumper in the lane at the 1:58 mark to pull the Lady War Eagles even again at 49-all.
But after coming up with a key defensive play by boxing out Black on the boards after a short 3-point attempted led to a dead-ball rebound for North Hall, Jarrard came up big on the offensive end again.
Once again, the found room near the top of the key, where she waited for Carly Bowen’s pass and knocked down another 3 to make give her team the lead again at 52-49 with 54 seconds left, and Peach hit 1 of 2 free throws with 26 seconds left to make the score 53-49.
“We hit a couple shots late,” Herrick said. “Lexi Jarrard hits two 3s late – the two biggest shots of the game, no question. That’s a kid I’m so proud of. Early in the season, (she) wasn’t playing a ton, never complained. Now to just have a huge game like his and hit two clutch like that for us, I’m so happy for her.”
This time, the Lady Trojans made the lead stick, though there were some nervous moments near the end.
A stickback by Bull with 1.6 seconds left, and a missed 1-and-1 opportunity on the other end left Chestatee with one last chance with 0:00.5 showing the clock following a time out.
However, Genesis Satterfield intercepted the long inbound pass, allowing the Lady Trojans to finally breathe a sigh of relief with the victory.
Peach and Vachtsevanos led all scorers with 18 points apiece, with Peach adding six rebounds and three assists.
Black finished with a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds, plus three assists and three steals to lead Chestaee, while Bull (team-high 15 points) and Boyd (13 points) also reached double figures, and Sierra Yarbrough chipped in five points and eight rebounds.
Meanwhile Chestatee’s boys (13-7, 6-4) came into Friday’s game still smarting from a 20-point loss to North Oconee on Tuesday, and were ready to redeem themselves, and did so with two big runs.
The first was a 25-6 spurt over the final 3:30 of the first quarter and opening 2:39 of the second that broke a 5-all tie and gave the War Eagles a 30-9 lead before taking a 32-20 advantage into halftime.
The second was a 21-8 third quarter that put the game out of reach after North Hall (9-10, 4-6) showed some life in the early minutes after halftime.
It was just the type of effort Chestatee boys coach Tanner Plemmons was looking for after a disappointing outing three days earlier.
“A lot better effort,” Plemmons said. “The biggest thing we’ve been coaching the past few games … is effort, mainly on the defensive end. Our guys were locked in almost the entire night, and that led to good offense for us.”
Indeed, the War Eagles forced the Trojans into 18 turnovers for the game, but also got plenty of offense.
Wilbanks led the way with 24 points, including his 1,000th career point early in the fourth quarter, making the 6-foot-5 forward only the second junior to reach that mark, and just the sixth player in school history.
Wilbanks made it a double-double with 11 rebounds, while Weaver also had a big game on both ends of the court with 17 points and four steals.
Hugh Pruitt chipped in 14 points and six rebounds, while Josh Bull finished with 11 points.
J.T. Chester came off the bench to lead North Hall with 10 points, while Luke Sanders had eight, and Cole Hulsey contributed five points and nine boards.