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Early missed opportunities prove costly in Chestatee's 39-36 loss to Banks County
Lady War Eagles (4-4) missed 12 of 18 first-half free throws
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Banks County's Gabby Kennedy (1) goes up for a shot while being guarded by Chestatee's Morgan Bryant (42) and Lindsey Caudell (21) Friday at Chestatee High School. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Chestatee High’s girls basketball team pulled within one point of Banks County late Friday night, but couldn’t overcome a 12-point first-half deficit down the stretch. 

The Lady Leopards (6-3) defeated the Lady War Eagles (4-4) 39-36 in Gainesville, but it wasn’t without being tested.

With two minutes left to play, Brooklyn Popham made a layup to cut the Lady Leopard lead to 37-35.

Popham was then able to grab the inbounds pass and was fouled immediately, taking just two seconds off the clock.

At the line, she missed her first attempt, but drained the second.

Banks County was called for a charge on its return trip down the floor.

Chestatee answered with a wasted possession, throwing the ball out of bounds.

The Lady War Eagles drew another charge on the defensive side of the court, before losing possession yet again with a ball out of bounds.

Inside the final 42 seconds, Allison Smith made 2 of 4 attempts to push the lead to 39-36, the eventual final score.

“We started off slow,” said Chestatee guard Dawndria Bell. “We’re not a first half team, but that was a really tough game.”

The Lady War Eagles were shut out in the first quarter. In the second quarter, Banks County outscored the home team 16-11 to take a 23-11 lead.

Chestatee was 6 of 18 from the free throw line in the first half — 14 of 29 overall.

“Those kill,” Bell said. “Free throws, they’re easy shots. No one is guarding us. We had a rough time with them though.”

In the second half, Chestatee outscored Banks County 26-16 and scored 18 points in the fourth quarter alone.

Bell ended the game with 11 points as one of two Lady War Eagles in double digits. Brooklyn Popham scored 13 for the home team in the loss.

Gabby Kennedy was the only Lady Leopard in double figures with 10 as seven players scored for Banks County.

BANKS COUNTY BOYS 65, CHESTATEE 44: The War Eagles (0-8) pulled within three points of the unbeaten Leopards (9-0) with six seconds left in the first quarter before Trevae Cain hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to distance the eventual winners.

Banks County went on to score 19 points in the second quarter and 20 in the third.

Chestatee matched its 11-point first quarter in the third and had its best in the fourth, 17, but a 5-point second quarter helped the Leopards pull away.

Cameron Gwyn scored 8 points in the third quarter to lead the War Eagles.

Banks County was led by Zez Steeple with 18 points. Zac Orr was close behind with 16 and Cain finished with 10.

Up next, Chestatee’s boys will play Flowery Branch to open the Lanierland tournament at 11:30 a.m. Dec. 28 at Johnson High.

Banks County plays today at Hart County. The girls begin at 4 p.m. and the boys follow.

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