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Healthy, confident Cleveland leading North Hall girls
1202 Cleveland
North Hall's Sydney Cleveland signed with Georgia College to play basketball. Pictured front row from left, Sophia Cleveland, Sadie Cleveland, mother Sonya Cleveland , Sydney Cleveland, and father Shane Cleveland. Back row from left, athletic director Billy Wells, principal Jamey Moore, Sawyer Cleveland, and Lady Trojans coaches Kristi House, Suzanne Haynes, Brandi Keadle and Suzanne Haynes - photo by For The Times

North Hall’s Sydney Cleveland isn’t about to allow a past injury to interfere with enjoying her senior year on the basketball court.

Now fully healthy, Cleveland has been in double digits in scoring in all three games this season, including a pair of wins just before Thanksgiving in the Piedmont College Hardwood Classic. Cleveland was named tournament MVP.

Cleveland, who recently signed to play basketball at Georgia College, scored 11 points in a Nov. 24 win against Rabun County, followed by 16 the next night against Lakeview Academy in Demorest. She tallied a season-high 27 points in the season opener against Clarke Central, and she is averaging eight rebounds per game.

“My goal is to just go out there and have fun this season,” said Cleveland. “This is my final year playing at North Hall, and I want to make it count.”

The scrappy defender and excellent shooter for the Lady Trojans (3-0) says she’s back to full strength, following a junior season wearing a knee brace.

As a sophomore, Cleveland had a knee injury that kept here sidelined for the majority of the year after the early-season injury. Cleveland, who is North Hall’s lone remaining contributor from the state semifinal squad in 2012, said she put full trust in her rehabilitation with therapists. She said with diligent training, she’s faster now than before.

“(Getting injured) is always in the back of your mind, but you have to just flush it out,” Cleveland said.

North Hall coach Kristi House values Cleveland just as much for her leadership qualities as the baskets she puts up during the games.

“Sydney has a great work ethic every single day,” said House. “The rest of the team definitely looks at Sydney as a leader.”

House said that the 5-foot-9 Cleveland can do it all on the floor for North Hall. She can guard outside and in the paint.

Cleveland is also just as comfortable shooting underneath as behind the 3-point line. Since getting rid of the brace for support on her right leg, House said Cleveland is noticeably more comfortable running and cutting.

With her vast varsity experience, Cleveland has put an emphasis on team chemistry with everyone in North Hall’s program.

She knows everyone can fit a specific role in helping get the program further in the postseason, after nearly pulling an upset against Woodward Academy in the second round of the Class AAA state tournament last year.

Cleveland leads the senior class of three Lady Trojans, along with Katie Sayres and Kensi Gillespie. North Hall’s senior forward said one of the main goals is to make a run for the Lanierland title after Christmas, then go after a deep playoff run, this year in Class AAAA late in the winter.

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