The North Hall boys basketball team leaned heavily on defense to build an early lead over East Hall in Friday’s region battle. And when the Vikings battled back to within a score of the lead late, it was defense that closed things out for the Trojans.
With North Hall clinging to a two-point lead, East Hall had just seven seconds left to inbound the ball, run the length of the court and score.
But it wasn’t meant to be for the Vikings.
Trojan guard Daniel Jackson stole the inbound, absorbed contact and made one of his two free throw attempts to ice North Hall’s 59-56 win.
“Every time you play East Hall, it’s going to be a good game,” Jackson said of the narrow victory. “It was a great atmosphere tonight, and it feels really nice to get that win here tonight.”
Jackson led the way for the Trojans with 16 points — half of which came in the fourth quarter — and a pair of steals, including the game winner. He hit on 6 of 8 free throws in the final two minutes in a clutch performance to help seal the win for North Hall (8-11, 4-3 Region 7-3A).
“I’ve said it for four years, and I’ll continue to say it,” North Hall coach Tyler Sanders said. “Dan Jackson is a kid I’ll go to battle with anytime, anywhere.”
Jay Rucker and TJ Campbell had 14 a piece to pace East Hall (9-10, 4-3).
From the beginning, it appeared North Hall would run away with an easy victory. The Trojans started the game on a 10-3 run, holding the Vikings to one made field goal over the opening six and a half minutes of the game.
North Hall extended that lead to 11 points going into halftime with an 11-0 run during the latter half of the second quarter. The Trojans held East Hall to single digits scoring in both of the first two frames, shutting the Vikings out for four straight minutes on two different occasions.
“I can’t say enough about that defensive effort,” Sanders said. “All these kids are sold out to playing defense no matter what’s going on.”
North Hall kept things up defensively through the third quarter, limiting East Hall to just seven points. But in the final frame, the Vikings made their move.
Trailing by 17 with less than seven minutes to play, East Hall came alive behind a 16-2 run that brought the home team to within one possession of the lead.
A monster block from Rucker on a Luke Volle layup attempt followed by a Clete Cooper layup on the other end of the court tied the game up with just more than a minute remaining, but the momentum swing was not enough for the Vikings to tilt things in their favor.
East Hall sent Jackson to the free throw line on three straight Trojan possessions in an effort to preserve time for a final shot, and Jackson made them pay for it. He hit on 5 of 6 attempts over a 30-second period to extend North Hall’s lead to four with 20 seconds to play.
Rucker converted on a 3-point play to get the Vikings within a point with eight seconds to go, and East Hall immediately fouled Drew Faulkner following the inbound. Faulkner’s missed second free throw was mishandled out of bounds by North Hall, setting the stage for Jackson’s game-winning play.
“East Hall is a super athletic team, a great basketball team,” Jackson said. “To hold them to that many points, we were very proud of that. It’s going to take that amount of effort from here on out.”
EAST HALL GIRLS 48, NORTH HALL 45: The Lady Vikings held North Hall to six fourth-quarter points, and Aaliyah Ellison drilled a go-ahead 3-pointer with 50 seconds left for East Hall.
Alexis Burce provided the spark the Lady Vikings (8-12, 2-5 Region 7-3A) needed, scoring 16 points — 14 of those coming in the second half.
“(Burce) was huge,” East Hall coach Justin Wheeler said. “She handles the ball well. She’s skilled. She puts in a lot of work and she deserves every bit of it.”
Grace Hollifield scored 14 to lead the Lady Trojans (13-5, 5-2).
The teams played close for most of the opening half, but North Hall closed the half out on a 10-0 run that gave the Lady Trojans a six-point advantage at halftime. North Hall added to that lead to start the third quarter, pushing it to nine before the Lady Vikings battled back.
East Hall tied things up with a 10-1 run in the middle of the third frame, and outscored the Lady Trojans 14-6 in the final period to claim the region victory.
“We fought back,” Wheeler said. “The girls kept their heads up. I’m proud of them.”