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Lanierland: Smith scores 46, War Eagles win
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OAKWOOD — Parker Smith came into Saturday night’s game hoping to prove that the Chestatee High basketball team could play with anybody.

After the game, he felt like the War Eagles’ 91-77 victory against West Hall in the opening round of the Jackson EMC Lanierland Basketball Tournament quieted a lot of doubters.

He was all smiles as he exited the Johnson High gymnasium, leading the War Eagles (4-1) with a school record and career-best 46 points.

"I finally shot the ball real well," Smith said. "I haven’t shot the ball very good these last couple of games, but tonight I wanted to come to a hot start."

Smith and the fourth-seeded War Eagles both came out hot, draining three consecutive 3-pointers, thanks in large part to the hustle of Chestatee senior Drew Cain.

Following a Smith 3-pointer just 18 seconds into the game, Cain dove at a loose ball, and passed it to War Eagle point guard Nathan Shope. Shope then found a wide open Branden Jovaag for the War Eagles’ second consecutive 3.

On the following possession, Cain hustled once again, stepping in and taking a charge on a driving Spartan guard.

The War Eagles marched down the court and Shope once again found Jovaag unmanned behind the arc, and he knocked down another trey, giving the War Eagles an early 9-0 lead.

Smith continued his scoring rampage, finishing with 10 points, and guiding the War Eagles to a 24-16 lead at the end of the first quarter.

"At practice we really try to talk about doing whatever we can to keep a possession alive," Chestatee coach Russ Triaga said. "Drew always does whatever he can to kill a possession, and he just really helped us out tonight."

The War Eagles, who held a 48-36 lead at the intermission, opened the second half on yet another hot streak, scoring 14 straight points, extending their lead to 62-36.

"At halftime we talked about addressing their shooters," Triaga said. "We really wanted to get better spacing on offense and continue to give Parker (Smith) and Branden (Jovaag) room to shoot the ball."

Jovaag finished the game with 19 points as he and Smith combined for 65 points.

"Branden (Jovaag) did a great job tonight," Triaga said. "We wanted to make sure that all of our guys stepped up and did something to contribute.

"We did that tonight, and everytime we do that we’re pretty successful."

West Hall never gave up, taking full advantage of a six-minute War Eagle scoring lull, reducing Chestatee’s lead to 72-63 with 5 minutes, 19 seconds left in the game.

The late Spartan (3-4) run fell short, as the hot-handed Smith struck again, scoring 10 consecutive points to conclude the game.

"West Hall is a very good team," Triaga said. "We got to a point in the second half where we got complacent, and they are really too good to do that against. They do a great job of attacking the rim, and they were just hard to handle."

West Hall, which was the tournament’s No. 5 seed, was led by Ricky Vital and Terrell Penland, who each scored 19. Derek Weatherly added 12 points and Marquise Stephens finished with 10.

Despite the win, Chestatee assistant coach Charlie Fischer knows that the War Eagles have a lot to improve on in the upcoming days.

"I was really proud of the guys tonight," Fischer added. "They played their tails off, but we have a lot to work to do at practice before our game Friday night."

Chestatee advances to the second round to face Flowery Branch at 8:30 p.m. Friday at East Hall High. West Hall drops to the consolation round to play Gainesville at Johnson High on Tuesday.

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