DAWSONVILLE — With a short hook shot over a defender in the paint, Avery Cagle kept alive North Hall’s shot at a No. 1 seed for the Region 7-AAA Tournament.
The 6-foot-3 sophomore forward scored the last four points of the game for the Trojans, including a shot just before the buzzer to shock Dawson County 39-38, on Tuesday in Dawsonville.
“That game right there is what’s right about high school athletics,” North Hall coach Benjie Wood said afterward. “Both teams were competing their hearts out, it’s just a shame somebody had to lose.”
North Hall’s eighth consecutive win also sets up a rematch at Buford on Friday where, with a win, the Trojans (22-2, 12-1) would tie the Wolves for the Region 7-AAA lead and put in motion a tiebreaker scenario. Buford would secure the No. 1 seed by defeating North Hall.
The scenario didn’t appear to be much of a possibility for much of Tuesday’s game, with Dawson County (20-4, 9-4) maintaining a slim lead from early in the second quarter until 28 seconds left in the game, when Cagle hit a jump shot to put the Trojans ahead by one.
Dawson County went back down the court and Tyler Dominy drove to the basket, was fouled, and sank both free throws to put the Tigers back ahead by one, 38-37, with 17 seconds remaining.
With one more shot to win it, Wood called time out with four seconds remaining and called a play for Cagle instead of leading scorer Ebo Smith, who had scored a team-high 15 points.
“The last play was designed to go to him,” Wood said. “We knew they’d be double-teaming Ebo.”
Cagle, who scored just six points in the game, took a pass, backed his defender into the paint and then flipped the ball up into the net.
“When I heard the crowd go silent, I knew we had done it,” Cagle said. “It’s probably the best feeling I’ve had at North Hall.
“The coaches and players, they never stopped believing in me even after all my missed shots. They just told me to keep shooting.”
The final two shots for Cagle clinched a season sweep for North Hall over Dawson County. The Tigers have lost four region games but only to the two top teams — the Trojans and Buford — giving them a clear path at the No. 3 seed for the region tournament.
Dominy led Dawson County with 15 points and Will Anglin added nine as just four Tigers scored all of their points in a defensive battle.
“It was a good game defensively,” Wood said. “There were not that many easy shots all night.”
Griffin Olson added nine points for North Hall, which finished a perfect 3 of 3 from the free throw line, all coming in the fourth quarter. Dawson County finished 5 of 9, but missed three free throws in a row during the final 1:10 before Dominy made two.
Dawson County entered the final quarter leading 34-30, but had led by as many as eight, at 31-23, after starting the third quarter on a 6-0 run.
Smith ended the run with a deep 3-pointer and a layup to get the game back to a closely-fought contest, where it would remain the rest of the night.
Like North Hall, Dawson County finishes the regular season at 8:30 p.m. Friday, visiting West Hall in Oakwood.
DAWSON COUNTY GIRLS 66, NORTH HALL 61: Dawson County coach Steve Sweat said he wants the ball in the hands of point guard Carly Gilreath at the end of close games.
She showed why Tuesday night.
Gilreath scored 15 of her team-high 21 points in the second half and the Lady Tigers (20-4, 9-4) clinched the No. 2 seed for the region tournament.
The senior hit a floater in the lane with 3:15 remaining after North Hall (14-10, 7-6) had pulled within two, then hit another of her signature shots with 30 seconds left to all but seal the win and put Dawson County ahead by five.
“Being the point guard you’re the leader on the floor, especially in tough situations,” Gilreath said. “Coach Sweat has always said at the end of the game that he wants the ball in my hands.”
At this point of the season, the big games for Gilreath and the Lady Tigers could only be beginning.
With the win, Dawson County secures the No. 2 seed for the Region 7-AAA tournament. North Hall can finish no better than fourth, said Lady Trojans coach Kristi House, “without something crazy happening.”
She added that finishing fifth would be essentially no different, because the No. 5 seed plays No. 4 in the first round of the region tournament, starting Feb. 13.
Sweat had a similar mindset despite securing the high seed.
“In years past it might have been better,” Sweat said. “But the way the region has been this year, except for Buford at No. 1, everybody has shown they can beat everybody.
“You still have to be ready to play.”
Sweat will need more nights like Tuesday out of his offense. Sheyenne Seabolt added 19 points and Ashley Parker finished with 12 for Dawson County.
Kenzi Gillespie led North Hall with 20 points and Jordan Nix added 14 for a Lady Trojans’ squad that hit eight 3-pointers.
Dawson County outrebounded North Hall 33-25 in a fast-paced game that also saw 38 combined turnovers.