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Defense leads West Hall girls into 8-AAA quarterfinals
Lumpkin County’s Randi Malone is smothered by West Hall’s Kaelyn Gattis, top, and Miranda Miller during the first half of the opening round of 8-AAA tournament at the West Hall gymnasium Tuesday night. - photo by Scott Rogers | The Times

OAKWOOD - Even when the shots aren't falling consistently, the West Hall girls are still going to have a fighting chance of winning.

Steady defense has been the common thread in its winning streak that is now at seven games, including Tuesday's 38-16 win against Lumpkin County (3-22) in the first round of the Region 8-AAA Tournament in Oakwood.

West Hall, which faces Chestatee at 6 p.m. Thursday at Oconee County in the tournament quarterfinals, put on an impressive showing on the defensive end, led by the effort of Kaelyn Gattis (16 points, 10 rebounds) and Maia Booker (seven points, eight rebounds).

The Lady Spartans (12-15) also did a solid job holding Lumpkin County (4 for 43 from the field) to just one shot most times down on the offensive end.

"I thought we played great on defense tonight," said Gattis. "We want this so bad to get to state."

Leading 22-12 after three quarters, West Hall put the game away with a 16-point fourth quarter. Gattis started the Lady Spartans with a basket only :30 seconds into the fourth period, followed by a pair of free throws by LeNiesha Kearse.

On West Hall's next trip down the court, Kearse dished the ball off to Booker, who scored five of West Hall's first 10 points, for an open basket.

Gattis also matched a pair of Lumpkin County baskets in the third quarter to keep the Lady Spartans' lead in double digits.

The Lady Indians missed all 14 3-point attempts for the night.

"We just whittled away," said West Hall coach Lynn Jarrett. "I felt that we really rebounded and defended well."

Jarrett felt that the 11-day layoff since finishing the regular season also played a factor.

The Lady Spartans struggled shooting early. West Hall led 7-0 on a basket by Booker late in the first quarter, and the sophomore followed it up with a 3-pointer early in the second period to take a 10-3 lead.

Even though West Hall didn't play Chestatee, the No. 2 seed from the North subregion, during the regular season, Jarrett said that he knows that the Lady War Eagles have a young and athletic team.

The Lady Spartans are searching for their first playoff berth since 2005.

WHITE COUNTY GIRLS 53, LANIER 34: The Lady Warriors managed to overcome three consecutive losses to end the regular season with a first-round win in the Region 8-AAA Tournament on Tuesday at West Hall.

With the win, White County advances to face the South's top-seed, Oconee County, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in Watkinsville.

Paige Thomas led the Lady Warriors (12-13) with 12 points and Cassie Carter added nine points. Leading 12-9 after the first period, White County outscored Lanier 18-11 in the second quarter.

Shelby Threkeld led the Lady Longhorns (10-16) with 16 points. With a win Thursday, White County will secure a playoff berth for the first time since 2002.


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