The two state-ranked teams definitely lived up to their respective billing in Tuesday night’s Region 8-4A crossover basketball doubleheader between Chestatee and North Oconee at the Lynn Cottrell Center.
The host and No. 8 Chestatee girls got their usual all-around performance from Riley Black, but she had plenty of help from her teammates, particularly Payton Cable and Caroline Bull, as the Lady War Eagles rolled to a 61-52 win.
The War Eagles boys weren’t quite as fortunate as the visiting and sixth-ranked Titans, which used big runs in the opening five minutes and closing three minutes of the first half to run away with a 61-41 victory.
In the girls game, Black provided Chestatee (15-4, 8-1 in region play) with her customary effort, finishing with game 24 points, 14 rebounds and four assists.
But with visiting North Oconee (14-6, 3-3) working hard to deny her the ball throughout the evening, those numbers might not have been possible without the contributions from her teammates to keep the Lady Titans’ defense honest.
Cable was able to take advantage of all the attention Black was getting in the low post by posting a varsity career-high 18 points to go with 10 rebounds.
Meanwhile, Bull (12 points, six rebounds, three assists) and Addison Boyd gave Black some relief bringing the ball up against the North Oconee press, which helped open up lanes for her to drive to the basket.
“I just told (Cable) that’s the best game I’ve ever seen in the five years I’ve been around her,” Chestatee girls coach Sutton Shirley said. “She did an incredible job. (North Oconee post Kendall Wells) is a heck of a player and a load down low, and Payton took on the challenge and did an incredible job defensively and offensively.
“Caroline and Addison Boyd are both sophomores. They both probably weigh about 100 pounds soaking wet, and they have to do a lot to allow Riley to do what she does. Whether it showed up in the stat line or not, they both did a great job of taking pressure off her in moments to really let Riley get her double-double like she always does.”
The contributions from the rest of the Lady War Eagles were most evident in the first quarter, when North Oconee got aggressive in trying to keep Black away from the ball, and it worked, with the junior guard being held scoreless for the opening eight minutes.
But with the game tied 4-all nearing the midpoint of first frame, Cable converted a nice feed from Black, and Bull knocked down a pair of shots from behind the arc for an 8-2 run over a 1:10 span to vault Chestatee into a 12-6 lead with 3:12 left in the period.
Then after a Aiyanna Peavy basket, Cable connected from the left baseline and Cheyenne Ewing beat the buzzer on a 3-pointer from the right corner for a nifty feed from Bull to help the Lady War Eagles end the quarter on a 15-4 run to take a 17-8 lead.
North Oconee tried to battle back, pulling as close as 17-14 following back-to-back 3-pointers from Lolly Willis and Grace Bryson in the first 58 seconds of the second quarter.
But by that time, Black began to find more room, scoring eight points in the period, including a pair of free throws with 1:30 left in the half to send the Lady War Eagles into intermission with their nine-point advantage intact at 30-21.
And the 5-foot-9 guard added eight more points in the third quarter, including a floater in the lane in transition 3:36 left in the period that blunted a brief North Oconee run and put the lead back into double digits at 39-29.
That basket also ignited a 9-2 run over the remainder of the quarter that included another Black floater, a 3-pointer by Cable and two free throws by Sierra Yabrough that sent Chestatee into the fourth quarter with a commanding 46-31 lead.
Wells tried to will North Oconee back into the game, and finished with 19 points and seven rebounds, but the Lady Titans only cut the lead back to single digits twice more in the final frame, including a jumper by Peavy, who had 13 points for the night, with 10 seconds left.
In the boys game, Chestatee (12-7, 5-4) struggled from the outset, with a steal off a defensive rebound and layup by Khamari Brooks just 28 seconds in helping North Oconee (17-3, 9-0) establish dominance by igniting an 8-0 opening run.
“The effort on both ends was just not very good,” Chestatee coach Tanner Plemmons said. “We did not execute our sets, turned the ball over way too much, gave up too many rebounds, and didn’t communicate. Against a team that’s really good offensively, that sets a bunch of screens and does what they’re supposed to do, if you don’t communicate, they’ll pick you apart. That’s what they did (Tuesday) night.
Still, the War Eagles found themselves down just 10-4 after the first quarter, and just 10-6 after an up-and-under move from Josh Bull 19 seconds into the second quarter.
But North Oconee responded quickly with a three-point play by Kaden Piper just 23 seconds later, which sparked a 10-2 run over the next minute and a half to push the Titans’ lead to 20 on David Dorbin’s driving layup.
Then with the lead at 24-14, Dorbin’s reverse layup off a drive form the left baseline with 2:54 left in the half, followed by a 3-pointer by Byrd Carter to beat the halftime buzzer ballooned the lead to 29-14 at intermission, and the War Eagles never got any closer.
Colton Wilbanks led Chestatee with 11 points and eight rebounds, while Jarvis Weaver and Eli Parlier added seven points apiece.
But it was no match for North Oconee, which was led by Carter’s 15 points.