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North Hall boys clinch subregion with 74-49 win over Franklin County
Lady Trojans secure top spot in 8-AAA North
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North Hall's Ethan Smith, right, along with teammate Imani Cross, left, scrap for the ball with Franklin County's Jack McRee during the first half of Friday night's game at the North Hall gymnasium.

Imani Cross says that North Hall isn’t a flashy team.

“We do the little things, we’re not flashy, we don’t have tall guys,” he said. “We just do the little things and play hard.”

The Trojans’ run of success, however, is getting hard to ignore.

North Hall routed Franklin County 74-49 Friday night in Gainesville, extending its winning streak to 14 games and clinching 8-AAA North.

Taking the subregion’s No. 1 seed into the region tournament guarantees a home game as well as a pass through the opening round.

“We get to play a home game, so that’s nice,” Trojans coach Benjie Wood said.

It also means that North Hall needs just one win in the region tournament to clinch a spot in state, although the way this team is playing, a region title is certainly within reach.

For the Trojans (21-3, 9-0 8-AAA North), a subregion title is just another mile marker on their incredible run.

“We’re trying to work hard, and we realize that we’re not there yet,” Cross said. “But it’s a good step.”

North Hall clinched in decisive fashion at the expense of the Lions, last season’s subregion champions, and with the same kind of scoring balance that has marked this year’s team.

Preston Smith led all scorers with 19, Ebo Smith added 16, Avery Cagle 15, Cross nine and Griffin Olson eight. The Trojans finished 27 of 33 from the free throw line, with Ebo Smith making all nine of his attempts.

“We’re a team, we don’t care who scores,” Wood said. “We just care what the final score is.”

Against the No. 2 team in the subregion, North Hall went ahead for good midway through the second quarter on a 9-0 run, jump-started by an Olson 3-pointer that put the Trojans ahead 24-17.

North Hall increased the lead to 31-23 at the half, with Ebo Smith draining three straight free throws at the buzzer after getting fouled behind the arc. The Trojans then exploded in the third quarter offensively, while holding Franklin County sharpshooter Raquan Jones (team-high 15 points) to just four points in the second half.

Kalep Leverette added 10 points for the Lions (16-7, 6-3), who made seven 3-pointers on the night but continued to fall farther behind throughout the second half. Franklin County is now tied with Stephens County for second in the subregion.

The Trojans finish the regular season at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Stephens County. The Lions finish the regular season Tuesday at home against Lumpkin County.

NORTH HALL GIRLS 54, FRANKLIN COUNTY 39: Lady Trojans senior Tiffany Hamilton ignited a 12-0 run with a 3-pointer to start the game, and hit another trey to start a 12-0 run in the third quarter to put the hosts ahead by double digits and seal the subregion title for North Hall (17-7, 8-1 8-AAA North).

On senior night, a Lady Trojans squad with six seniors secured a valuable first-round bye in the upcoming region tournament and a home game in the next round.

“We get a bye, we get to host,” House said. “And it’ll be nice not to travel.”

The furthest trip would be to Gainesville for the semifinals and finals if they win the first game and clinch a state berth. Last year the Lady Trojans had to win twice to reach state.

Hamilton finished with 11 points.

“She stepped up tonight,” said North Hall coach Kristi House of her senior guard. “She’s a great defensive player, but we know she can shoot the ball well.

“She helped give us a lift on offense.”

Fellow senior McKenna Rushton led all scorers with 17 points and added 10 rebounds to fend off a Lady Lions team that refused to go away until the second half.

After falling behind 12-0, Franklin County (4-19, 3-6) got within one point on two occasions in the second quarter, although the visitors could never tie the score.

Shakara Little led the Lady Lions with 10 points.

The Lady Trojans play their final regular season game at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Stephens County. The Lady Lions finish Tuesday at home against Lumpkin County.

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