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North Hall boys win first region title since 1991
West Hall’s Shunquez Stephens gets past North Hall’s Kanler Coker on his way to the basket during the first half of the Region 7-AAA championship game at the Flowery Branch High gymnasium Tuesday night.
FLOWERY BRANCH — With dead legs and a region title in its sights, the North Hall boys basketball team had to draw strength from somewhere.

So prior to the game, the team reflected back on the work it had put into making this season a success, and it worked.

Led by 13 points each from Kanlor Coker and Lance White, the Trojans won their first region title since 1991 — and the first in coach Benjie Wood’s four years at the helm — with a 50-42 win against West Hall on Tuesday night at Flowery Branch High.

“This feels pretty doggone nice,” Wood said. “All the hard work that’s gone into this program...I’m so proud for our men.”

With the win, North Hall (22-3) earned the No. 1 seed out of Region 7-AAA and will play host to the loser of tonight’s Region 6-AAA third-place game between Central-Carroll and Cartersville.

West Hall (18-11), the No. 2 seed out of Region 7-AAA, will play host to the loser of that game with both contests set for Friday at a time that’s yet to be determined.

Fatigue wasn’t the only thing the Trojans had to battle through, as West Hall took an early lead thanks to a 6-0 run to end the first quarter.

Dre Pou tied it at nine on a layup and turned right around and gave the Spartans the lead at 11-9 with another layup.

Shunquez Stephens made a steal on North Hall’s ensuing possession and passed it ahead to Manny Mata for a layup to give his team a 13-9 lead.

North Hall managed to drastically change the momentum in the second quarter, however, outscoring West Hall 18-7 en route to a seven-point lead at the half.

The Trojans built on that lead in the third quarter, starting on a 12-4 run capped by five straight by White to take what would be the biggest lead of the night at 39-24.

In those two quarters, defense was the catalyst as North Hall held West Hall to just 17 points in the second and third quarters combined.

“Defense is about heart and discipline,” Wood said. “We’ve prided ourselves on it all year and know that game in and game out it’s the one thing we can rely on.”

West Hall made a run in the fourth quarter, cutting the Trojans lead to five points with just under two minutes remaining when
Mata hit Josh Milsap for a 3-pointer. On the Trojans’ next possession after the 3-pointer, Stephens made another steal, this one
resulting in an uncontested layup for him on the other end that pulled his team within three points with 30 seconds remaining.

Stephens finished with 11 points, six rebounds and six steals. Jarquise Young led the Spartans with 12 points and Pou added 10.

“We had the deer in headlights look when they made that run,” Wood said.

Wood had little reason to worry, however, as senior Trevor Ross proved when — with the score 46-42 — he grabbed an offensive rebound in traffic after a missed free throw. Ross was fouled in the process and made both of his free throw attempts to seal the win for North Hall.

“That was a huge and very strong play for us,” Wood said. “Anytime you can win region in Hall County you’re proud because there’s some good basketball played here.

“This win is a huge confidence builder for us and we have our student section and fans to thank because they had the stands rocking tonight. This (title) is for the North Hall community.”`
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