It wasn’t a stressful night for the North Hall girls basketball team, but that didn’t make the win any less satisfying.
The Lady Trojans jumped out to an early lead over Morgan County in Tuesday’s Class 3A quarterfinals contest on Lynn Cottrell Court, and never trailed in their 57-41 victory that sends the team to state semifinals for the first time since 2012.
“I’m beyond excited,” North Hall coach Kristi House said just before cutting down the nets inside the school’s home stadium. “This game wasn’t won tonight. Our whole team has won it every single day leading up to this day. There’s a reason that we’re together at this moment, and it’s to be able to achieve something special together.”
The Lady Trojans’ quartet of seniors once again led the way for the team, scoring 51 of its 57 points on the night — each fourth-year player reaching double-digits in the win.
The game started off with a pass from senior Ansley Smallwood to fellow senior Maci Gillespie for a wide open layup 30 seconds in, and North Hall never looked back.
Lauren Swanson hit on a pair of 3s later on in the frame, and Grace Hollifield contributed a traditional 3-point play to put the Lady Trojans up by 10 five minutes into the opening quarter, pushing Morgan County back onto its back foot from the outset.
“I think the key tonight was coming out hot early, defensively, offensively,” House said. “Just coming out ready to play.”
North Hall was up 19-9 after one period, and increased that advantage to 13 by halftime thanks in large part to 3s from Gillespie and Smallwood.
Morgan County came back from the intermission with renewed energy, preventing the Lady Trojans from pushing further in front, but the hole was already too deep to climb out of.
The Lady Bulldogs got the deficit as low as 10 points on a couple of occasions, but each comeback effort was met with a timely burst from North Hall to keep Morgan County permanently out of arm’s reach.
“Our offense leads to defense,” Gillespie said. “And then it just leads back to offense.”
A 3-pointer from Shay Brown brought Morgan County back to within 11 with five minutes still left to play, but Hollifield connected from the corner on her lone trey of the game on the next possession to put things away for good.
The win sends North Hall to the Class 3A semifinals in Valdosta, where it will take on the winner of Ringgold and Beach at 2 p.m. Saturday at Valdosta State University.
It’s been a long road for the Lady Trojans, but as they took turns climbing the ladder to cut down the nets on Lynn Cottrell Court, it was all worth it.
“It means everything,” Gillespie said. “Honestly, we’re living the dream right now.”