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High school basketball notebook: West Hall boys on the rise
Lady Trojans figure out Chestatee; Vikings control their own destiny
West Hall's Jarquise Young and the Spartans have developed into a group of players that are tough to beat. - photo by Tom Reed | The Times

With their 17-3 record and 10-game winning streak, the West Hall Spartans have established themselves as the team to beat in Region 8-AAA. Who can challenge the Spartans for the region championship is still in question, but it appears as if their most likely opponent in the title game will come from their own subregion.

Sure, the north side of the subregion has last year’s state semifinalist North Hall and current first-place team Franklin County, but the south side is loaded with talented teams poised to make the state tournament in February.

It starts with West Hall, which hasn’t lost since failing to hold on to a 26-point lead against Gainesville in Lanierland. The Spartans nearly had a similar defeat last Thursday against Walnut Grove, when they jumped out to a 27-4 lead after the first quarter, but needed a Jarquise Young 3-pointer at the end of the game to win.

The fourth-ranked Spartans travel to Loganville tonight for a rematch with the Warriors (8-11, 4-3), who boast twin brothers (Chris and Nick Peters) capable of scoring 25 a piece on any given night. Despite its losing record, Walnut Grove has the athletes and scoring capabilities to make a run in the region tournament.

So too does Monroe Area (15-3, 6-2), which has only lost to West Hall (by 10), Gainesville (by 13) and Gadsen (Ala.). The Purple Hurricanes play the Red Elephants and Spartans one more time this year, and if they win both those contests, they could find themselves with the No. 1 seed from the south side.

That seems like a tall task seeing how well the Spartans are playing and how good Gainesville (12-6, 5-2) can be. Five of the Red Elephants’ six losses came against top-10 teams (West Hall, Wesleyan, Carrollton and East Hall twice), and they’ve held opponents to under 45 points in their last three wins. Gainesville visits Johnson tonight.

The Knights are another team capable of surprising some teams in the region tournament. With players like Matt Hollis, Ty Odem and Montrell McKenzie, combined with their propensity to shoot 3-pointers, Johnson might wind up with a nice matchup in the first round that could give it some momentum throughout the tournament.

The Region 8-AAA Tournament begins Feb. 11.

LADY TROJANS TOPPLE CHESTATEE: It took eight games, but someone finally figured out how to beat the sixth-ranked Lady War Eagles.

Behind the strong play of McKenna and Mary Kate Rushton, who combined for 26 of the team’s 44 points, North Hall’s girls knocked off Chestatee on Tuesday night to jump into a tie for first place in the subregion. Chestatee (16-3, 4-1 8A-AAA), which had an eight-game winning streak going prior to the loss, is still in the driver’s seat to win the subregion seeing it has a 16-3 overall record and has only one loss against a Class AAA team. The

Lady War Eagles’ other losses came against East Hall and Class AAAAA’s Hillgrove.
North Hall (9-10, 4-1) hosts Lumpkin County (2-18, 0-5) tonight. Chestatee plays at Stephens County (7-13, 3-3).

VIKINGS IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT: With its 57-44 win over No. 7 Union County on Tuesday, East Hall took over the top spot in subregion 8A-AA and made a case as the team to beat in the region. The Panthers (15-1, 3-1) gave the 10th-ranked Vikings (13-5, 4-0) all they could handle early, but proved to be outmatched once the game reached the second half.

Union County has had a nice turnaround since winning four games last year, but East Hall has the tradition — and talent — that is unmatched within the region.

The Vikings will host Dawson County (13-5, 2-3) tonight. Union County will attempt to get back on track with a home game against Fannin County tonight.