In many ways, the North Hall boys basketball team’s Region 7-3A tournament contest against Lumpkin County Wednesday night in Dawsonville was a lot like the Trojans’ season as a whole — a slow start followed by a resurgent finish.
But even after fighting back from a 14-point deficit to tie the game late, North Hall could not put the Indians away. The Trojans allowed a crucial, tie-breaking basket to Lumpkin County’s Jacob Cumbie with 30 seconds to go and then committed a 3-second violation on the other end of the court that sealed the Indians’ 42-39 win.
The loss knocks North Hall out of the region tournament, as well as takes it out of state playoff contention.
“Credit Lumpkin,” North Hall coach Tyler Sanders said. “They did a good job tonight. They just made a couple more shots early in the game that really hurt us. We never could get over the hump and get the lead back.”
Ty Smith was the only North Hall (11-15) player in double digits, scoring 10 points to lead the team in a game that was offensively starved from the outset.
Smith knocked down his first two shots in the opening minutes of the contest, but the Trojans suffered a prolonged dry spell from the midway point of the first quarter until halftime. North Hall finished the first frame with just six points. The Trojans made one shot in the entire second period — a Daniel Jackson layup with only 30 seconds to go until the break.
“We didn’t capitalize on the opportunities we had early on in the game,” Sanders said. “That was the difference.”
Still, North Hall’s staple of strong defense kept things from getting too out of hand. The Indians were nearly as inefficient as their opponents on the offensive end, turning the ball over on a number of occasions and failing to find many open-shot opportunities.
Neither team hit a single 3-pointer in the entire first half, and after 16 minutes, Lumpkin County’s lead was just 17-10.
The start of the third quarter brought a renewed offensive output from the Indians, while the Trojans continued to struggle to put points on the board. Lumpkin County scored the first seven points of the half, and North Hall failed to connect on a single shot until nearly five minutes into the period.
With two minutes until the finale frame, the Indians took a 14-point lead, their largest of the night.
Then the Trojans started to fight back.
First, Matthew Gunter converted a Brock Cooper steal into a layup, and then Smith tipped a ball in about a minute later. Cooper connected on North Hall’s first 3-pointer of the night with two seconds left in the quarter to cut the deficit to seven points going into the final frame.
The teams battled back and forth for much of the fourth quarter, but in the final minute the Trojans made their move.
After Cooper hit another trey, Drew Faulkner stole the inbound and got the ball to Luke Gunter for an easy layup. Luke Volle stole the next inbound, and tied the game up at the free throw line, but that was as far as North Hall would go.
Cumbie made his shot on the ensuing possession, and Gus Faulkner hit on a pair of free throws to push the lead to four following the Trojans’ 3-second violation. JT Fair connected on a desperation heave from half court with two seconds left, but it wasn’t enough for North Hall to reclaim the lead.
“Our kids showed a lot of grit, a lot of fight, a lot of determination to come back,” Sanders said. “But you can’t put yourself down 14 points.”
EAST HALL BOYS 64, CHEROKEE BLUFF 63: No Jayvion Rucker, no problem for East Hall.
The Vikings (12-13) were without their senior big man Wednesday night in Dawsonville, but junior guard TJ Campbell stepped up in a big way, scoring 23 points and knocking down a game-winning 3-pointer with 16 second left to play.
“With the season we’ve had, being up and down, that right there was so special for us at East Hall,” Vikings coach Seth Thompson said.
East Hall trailed by a point with 20 seconds left in the game when Thompson called his last timeout to set up a play. The plan was simple: get the ball to Campbell, the hot hand, and give him a shot to make something happen.
Kylan Curry caught the inbound and dished it to Campbell near the top of the key. He put the shot up before falling backward. As it floated to the hoop and he went crashing to the ground, there was only one thought going through his head.
“Just go in,” he said. “Go in, go in, go in.”
Then he corrected himself.
“No. This is going in.”
Early on, it seemed East Hall wouldn’t even have a chance in the game. Bears (15-11) guard Griffin Neville lit up the scoreboard in the opening quarter, pouring in 14 of his 30 points, including a couple of 3s that were as close to the half court line as they were to the tip of the arc.
But Campbell’s big second quarter brought East Hall back from an 11-point deficit to a lead going into halftime. Cherokee Bluff went back in front after a back-and-forth third period, but when it came down to the wire, the Vikings made the shots they needed to pull out the win.
With the victory, East Hall advances to take on Greater Atlanta Christian in the Region 7-3A tournament semifinals and locks up a spot in the state tournament.
“We’ve had this as a goal all year,” Said Thompson of making state playoffs. “... I’m so pleased with the way we played. It’s good stuff.”