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High school basketball: North Hall hopes mix of experience leads to long run in Class 3A playoffs
North Hall's Grace Hollifield looks to get past a Dawson County defender during the Region 7-3A tournament in Gainesville.

This week has been a whirlwind of excitement for the North Hall girls basketball team coming off its dramatic victory over Greater Atlanta Christian in Monday’s Region 7-3A championship game. 

“We were just kind of walking on sunshine the next day after the ball game,” Lady Trojans coach Kristi House said. “Everybody’s energy has just been great. There’s just a little extra lift in everybody’s step. Lots of smiles and having a good time.”

Though the program has found plenty of success under House in the last decade, this year’s squad has reached heights untouched by many North Hall teams in recent memory. 

This year’s seniors had never won a Lanierland tournament until this season, and while they had qualified for state playoffs in each of their three previous years, this is their first time winning a region tournament. 

It’s been a special season, and one that will continue this Friday with a bout against Pace Academy at 6 p.m. on Lynn Cottrell Court in the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs. 

Defense has been the group’s calling card all year, and House said it will continue to be the focus as the Lady Trojans turn their attention to the postseason. 

“We’re going to try to pressure them a little bit,” she said. “We’re going to refocus and talk about full court defense and just intensity for 32 minutes.”

North Hall’s full-court press has been a difference maker for the team all season and was particularly effective in the region tournament. 

The Lady Trojans’ extensive playoff experience has also had a heavy impact on their success this year. 

The four-person senior class of Grace Hollifield, Maci Gillespie, Lauren Swanson and Ansley Smallwood has been a driving force for the team. The leadership of those four players has been hugely beneficial for a large group of freshmen and sophomores, a winning combination for North Hall.

“We’re just trying to walk (the underclassmen) through the process and let the seniors share with them their experience,” House said. “It’s nice having that. It’s a weird mix, but it’s really nice, because the freshmen bring the fun and the energy, and then you’ve got the senior class with the wisdom and experience. It’s just been a really good mix for everybody.”

As the team celebrated its region title Monday evening inside a locker room at East Hall, House took a moment to impress upon the players the importance that sticking to the preparation process has had on the season.

“This wasn’t won today,” she said. “This was won in the years leading up to this day where this senior class got ready and all of you got ready.”

House — and the rest of the Lady Trojans — are hoping that preparation stays with the team as they turn their attention to the Class 3A state tournament.

First-round schedule

Class A private schools

Lakeview Academy girls vs. Mt. Pisgah,  6 p.m., Friday

Class 3A

North Hall girls vs. Pace Academy, 6 p.m., Friday

Cherokee Bluff boys at Westminster, 7:30 p.m., Friday

North Hall boys at Pace Academy, 3 p.m., Saturday

Class 4A

Chestatee girls at Troup County, 5 p.m., Friday

Flowery Branch girls at Sandy Creek, 6 p.m., Friday

Chestatee boys at Sandy Creek, 8 p.m.,  Friday

Class 6A

Gainesville boys vs. Sequoyah, 7 p.m., Friday

Regional events