GAINESVILLE — The intensity exuding from the North Hall side of the court during warm-ups was palpable.
The Lady Trojans knew they needed a big game to knock off Class AAA No. 5-ranked Gainesville and move into the Lanierland finals.
Their three seniors provided just that kind of game.
Letiecia Davenport, Ana Porras and Elizabeth Williams combined for 32 of North Hall’s 49 points, with Williams also adding 10 assists and four steals, as the Lady Trojans beat Gainesville 49-46 to move into tonight’s Lanierland finals against East Hall at 7 p.m. at East Hall High.
The Class AAA No. 7-ranked Lady Vikings are in the finals thanks to a win over Flowery Branch.
The first quarter ended tied at 10 after eight minutes of back-and-forth play.
North Hall jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead on free throws and a layup by Davenport, only to have Gainesville come storming back thanks to the inside play of sophomore Jaymee Carnes.
Davenport and Carnes finished the first quarter with 18 game’s 20 points — Davenport actually accounted for all of her team’s first 12 points.
"We have been emphasizing defense all week and knew we needed a lot of backside help on (Jaymee) Carnes," North Hall coach Debbie Blake said. "We were pulling everybody in to help."
The Lady Trojans jumped out to another four-point lead at the beginning of the second quarter thanks again to the offensive production of Davenport, who hit a layup, and an elbow jumper by Porras.
Porras finished the game with eight points.
A Carnes jumper from just inside the 3-point line cut the lead the 14-12 North Hall, but then the Lady Trojans went on a 5-0 run care of five straight from sophomore shooting guard Shannon Haire, the last of the five coming on a fast-break 3-pointer from the top of the key.
The Lady Red Elephants again came stomping back, however, re-taking the lead from North Hall on a Taylor Ricketts 3-pointer from the baseline before junior guard Bradee Burrell answered on North Hall’s ensuing possession with the first of her three 3-pointers to give North Hall the lead back at 24-22.
The two teams ended the second quarter the same way they ended the first, tied, thanks to a short jumper by Gainesville senior Abby Musselwhite at the halftime buzzer.
North Hall’s objective in the game was to, via the inside play of Davenport and Porras, limit Carnes’ rebound and putback opportunites.
In other words, keep her off the offensive boards.
Despite Carnes’ game-high 24 points, the two Lady Trojans’ seniors were most effective at doing this in the second half and it paid off for their team.
"We said they were the best team at getting offensive rebounds and that’s the best thing (Jaymee) Carnes does is get her own rebounds and put it back up," Blake said. "That’s when she’s the most dangerous and we knew we had to stop it."
A Williams-to-Davenport lob pass and layup sparked a 6-0 run by North Hall in the third quarter, a run which gave them a lead they would not relinquish for the remainder of the game.
Davenport finished with a team-high 22 points.
Burrell’s 3-pointer at the third-quarter buzzer and second 3-pointer on North Hall’s first possession of the fourth quarter further extended the Lady Trojans’ lead and, despite late turnovers and missed free throws by North Hall, sealed the win for the team.
Burrell finished as the second leading scorer on the team with 12 points.
"We talked a lot after the game about missed layups and free throws," Blake said. "We’re going to have a little shoot around tomorrow and hopefully that will take care of that."
With the loss the Lady Red Elephants move on to play in the consolation game against Flowery Branch at 4 p.m. today at East Hall High.