GAINESVILLE—Two words came to North Hall High girls basketball coach Debbie Blake’s head when asked about her team’s performance Saturday night in the championship game of the Jackson EMC Lanierland Basketball Tournament.
"Sweet success," she said when asked of her Lady Trojans’ victory.
Sweet it was, as the Lady Trojans’ squeezed past East Hall with a 47-43 win, earning North Hall’s 10th Lanierland championship in school history, and the first since 1990.
"We wanted this win so bad," North Hall senior Elizabeth Williams said.
"We weren’t satisfied with last night’s win, and we wanted to come out here tonight and prove that we are a good team and we can compete with anybody."
The win didn’t come easy for the Lady Trojans (5-1), having to fend off a scrappy Lady Vikings team on numerous occasions.
With the game tied at 39-39 and 3 minutes, 15 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, East Hall’s Tierra Benton stole a pass from North Hall’s inbounder.
She then took one dribble, spun and hit a layup, drawing a foul on the way up. Benton then connected on the free throw, giving East Hall (6-3) a one-point lead. It would be East Hall’s final lead of the game.
On the ensuing possession, miscommunication from coach to player caused an East Hall player to enter the court from the bench, resulting in a technical foul. Williams went to the free throw line, hitting one of two, tying the game at 42-42.
Following the free throw attempts, Williams then found Letiecia Davenport, who was fouled on an attempted jump shot. Davenport then hit two free throws, giving North Hall a 44-42 lead with 1:40 remaining in the game.
North Hall then streched its lead to four points, 46-42, when Williams was fouled on a reverse layup with less than a minute remaining in the game.
"(East Hall) tied it up and we didn’t fall apart," Blake said. "We continued to play with them. They would score, then we would score, but we kept with them. We just kept our composure tonight, and it was nice."
The Lady Trojans opened up their biggest lead of the game, 35-23, with two minutes remaining in the third quarter, led mostly by Davenport.
Davenport, who was named Lanierland’s Most Valuable Player, single-handedly took over the game, scoring eight third-quarter points, including six consecutive. She finished the game with 22 points.
"I feel pretty good about my performance," Davenport said. "I honestly feel like I could have done a little better on the defensive end, but I am proud of the way the team played.
"We definitely need to work on some things, but I am so happy we won the tournament."
Davenport also had the daunting task of keeping South Carolina signee Sada Wheeler in check. She stole the ball numerous times on attempted lobs, which resulted in fast-break opportunties for the Lady Trojans.
"(Sada) is a really good player," Davenport said. "She’s tall and hard to defend, but I tried to do the best I could and I’m glad I had backside help all night from my teammates."
Wheeler led East Hall with 22 points, 10 rebounds and a block. Tierra Benton added seven points, seven rebounds, two assists and two blocks.
North Hall plays host to Flowery Branch at 6 p.m. Monday. East Hall visits Pickens at 6 p.m. Thursday.