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High school basketball: North Hall girls look to move forward without Kristina Peach
North Hall's Lexie Jarrard (22) and Kristina Peach (23) guard against Union County on Jan. 23, 2023 in Gainesville. Photo by Bill Murphy

Tuesday’s key Region 8-4A, Subregion A victory over Cherokee Bluff closed out an emotional evening for North Hall’s girls basketball team.

While the No. 9 Lady Trojans’ win put them in the driver’s seat for the top seed from the subregion in the region tournament with just two games left in the regular season, there was a bit of a pall cast over that win when their team scoring, assists and steals leader Kristina Peach went down with a knee injury in the second quarter.

Wednesday became something of a day of reckoning as the senior guard and her teammates and coaches awaited the results of an MRI performed on her injured knee.

But rather than dwell on the anxiety of what those results might bring, North Hall head coach Eric Herrick, his staff and the players focused on a simple question.

What now?

Well, unless they get some unexpected good news from Peach’s doctors, the answer is that the Lady Trojans will prepare to go on without her.

That means finding someone who can step forward to help fill the void left by her absence, a task that won’t be an easy one considering everything she does both on the floor, where she averages 18 points per game, and in the locker room.

But the way Herrick sees the situation, his club can’t look for just one player to step forward.

“We have huge shoes to fill,” Herrick bluntly said Wednesday. “It’s not going to be one person to step up and fill her shoes. But … we’re looking at our seniors. Amelia Shoemaker’s been playing great for the last month and a half, and we’re looking for her to continue doing that. And our (other) seniors (like) Rylee Thompson and Lexi Jarrard – we’re going to lean on our experience at this point.”

Indeed, senior leadership will be an important part of the Lady Trojans trying to carry on without Peach.

And Jarrard, for one, says she is ready to accept the challenge, precisely for the reason that Herrick stated.

She and the rest of the senior knows they’ll be able to count on each other, as well as younger players like sophomore Athena Vachtsevanos and freshman Genesis Satterfield, to collectively do the job they know must be done.

“Obviously, it’s terrible what happened to Peach,” Jarrard said. “But it feels good knowing we have a team like we do. I know that when we have adversity, we rally together, and eventually, we persevere through.

“It feels great knowing we’ve got a team behind us that’s going to step up. Like Coach Herrick said, it can’t be just one person. Peach was such an asset to our team, so it can’t be just one person. It has to be everybody.”

One thing the Lady Trojans agree they can’t do at this point is feel sorry for themselves.

“The pity party ended (Tuesday) night,” Herrick said. “Kristina would not want us to sit here and pout and cry and complain. That’s just not who she is. She’d want us to show up and work our butts off and get ready for that next game.

“She (was) at practice (Wednesday). She’s that kid. I’ve told the girls (throughout the season), if we lose a girl, I gain (another assistant) coach. That’s the way I look at it because (Peach) knows the game.”

Jarrard agrees, and while she and her teammates know they will have to get the job knows on the floor with key region games looming Friday night on the road at East Forsyth and at home against 10th-ranked Walnut Grove on Tuesday, she adds that Peach’s presence should help them in that task.

“We’d rather have her on the court, but off the court, she sees everything,” Jarrard said. “She knows (the game) inside and out. She knows exactly what to do. Half the time when she was playing, she would know more than everybody else anyway. So it feels good just to have her there to bring that energy from the bench.”

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