OAKWOOD —The first game of the season can tell you a lot, whether your team is trying to build off a sweet 16 appearance or trying to replace an All-Area forward.
Both the Chestatee Lady War Eagles and West Hall Lady Spartans found that out Tuesday in Chestatee’s 41-38 win that opened the 2009 basketball season for both teams.
“It told me who wants to come and play,” Chestatee (1-0) coach Wed Daniel said of Tuesday’s win. “We were lucky to escape with a win because we didn’t play well at all.”
The same can’t be said for West Hall (0-1), which played its first game since the graduation of Jayla Moon, the team’s leading scorer from last year.
“It’s a different type of team,” West Hall coach Lynn Jarrett said. “We made the commitment to be a little more balanced this year, and I was proud of our effort tonight.”
That balance showed in the second quarter with Chestatee saddled with early foul trouble. Leading scorer Peyton Robertson, who finished with a team-high 13 points, sat on the bench the majority of the second quarter with three fouls, and with her off the court, West Hall went to work.
Bailey Soucie scored eight of her game-high 17 points, and fellow senior Emily Hammond chipped in all six of her points to propel the Lady Spartans to an 18-point quarter and a five-point lead at the half.
But Chestatee came out a different team to start the second half, going on a 5-0 run to tie the game at 25. Two minutes later, Robertson made a short shot that gave the Lady War Eagles their first lead since the score was 15-14 in the middle of the second quarter.
“I think we had a little bit of jitters in the first half,” Daniel said. “But we were able to calm down in the second half.”
With Chestatee finally clicking, the Lady Spartans went cold, scoring only six points in the third quarter and eight in the fourth.
“We just couldn’t get anything going offensively in the second half,” said Jarrett, who complimented Amber Johnson on her defensive effort on Robertson. “That’s a solid team and we made too many mistakes to win.”
Chestatee overcame its mistakes, including 15 missed layups, to hold on for the three-point win.
Despite the loss, Jarrett left the court knowing that her team was close to pulling off the upset.
“Of course I would have liked for this to go in the W column, but our young team played with great effort,” she said. “Competing against that good of a team is a good measuring stick and shows that we can play with anybody.”
The Lady Spartans get a chance to prove that at 4 p.m. Saturday when they play Cedar Shoals in the first round of the Talon Tip-Off Tournament at East Jackson High. Chestatee visits Woodstock at 5 p.m. Friday.
WEST HALL BOYS 66, CHESTATEE 56: With their two tallest players sidelined with injury, the West Hall Spartans used their quickness and the inside play of Dylan Bartlett to beat the War Eagles on Tuesday in Oakwood.
Filling in nicely for prospective starters Shunquez Stephens and William Stroup, who were both out with injures sustained during football season, Bartlett scored a game-high 20 points –all from inside the paint—to get West Hall (1-0) off to a good start to the 2009 season.
Bartlett was one of three Spartans to score in double digits as Jarquise Young scored 16 and Manny Mata added 10.
Chestatee (0-1) was led by Preston Smith, who scored 14 of his 20 points in the second half. Lamar Brooks added 15 and Jackson Chandler chipped in with 13 for the War Eagles.
Young, Mata and Bartlett sparked a second-quarter charge that saw West Hall outscore Chestatee 16-9 and send the Spartans into the locker room with a 32-21 lead that they would never relinquish.
West Hall travels to East Jackson on Saturday to play Cedar Shoals in the first round of the Talon Tip-Off Tournament, while Chestatee visits Woodstock at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.