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North Hall cruises past Lumpkin
Trevor Ross, of North hall, tries to knock the ball out of the hands of E. J. Young, of Lumpkin County. - photo by Tom Reed

While momentum shifts are the name of the game in basketball, it’s rare that one happens so suddenly and dramatically as to change a game as early as the second quarter.

Friday night at North Hall, however, that’s exactly what happened.

With Lumpkin County up by two with under a minute to go in the first half, the Indians were called for a technical. Chris Barnes made the ensuing free throws sparking a half-ending 7-0 run that gave the Trojans a five-point lead they would not relinquish en route to a 57-40 win.

“We talk about being able to ride that wave,” North Hall coach Benjie Wood said. “Basketball is a game of momentum and the bottom line is, you have to ride out the momentum shifts and take care of the overall process and we did that tonight.”

With the win, North Hall (22-3) not only advances to the Region 7-AAA tournament semifinals, but the Class AAA state playoffs. The Trojans also set a school record for wins (22) with the victory.

North Hall will play East Hall, which beat Pickens 75-58 in the night’s opening game, for the right to play in the region finals and play host to the first round of the state tournament.

“I’ll tell you, I was more nervous today that I’ve been in a long time,” Wood said. “I know how hard these kids have worked to get here, but I also know how basketball is.”

Wood’s team proved that basketball is a fickle sport in the first half, as the Trojans shot just 38 percent from the field on their way to 23 points. That was a stark contrast to the 40 points scored in the first half against Chestatee in North Hall’s last game.

The good news for North Hall, however, was that its defense was good enough to hold Lumpkin to just 30 percent from the field.

“We wanted to pressure them and make them take difficult shots,” Wood said. “I was happy with our defensive effort in the first half; it was our rebounding I got on them about.”

North Hall was outrebounded 25-18 in the game.

The saving grace for the Trojans in the first half was the play of senior Robbie Hill, who scored eight points and was the catalyst for a defense that forced four Indians’ turnovers in the first two minutes of the game and eight in the first half.

Hill finished with 10 points.

Lumpkin had an answer for Hill in junior Taylor Guthrie, who also scored eight points in the first half including four straight to give Lumpkin a lead it held for four minutes of the second quarter, until the technical and its aftermath.

Guthrie finished with a team-high 11 points and seven rebounds.

The Trojans took their first double-digit lead by opening the second half the way they finished the first, on a 7-2 run capped by a Chase Syfan 3-pointer off an assist from Lance White.

White took over for Hill in the second half, scoring nine of his team-high 13 points. He also dished out five assists in the game and had three rebounds and one steal.

Lumpkin’s Austin Tolbert hit for five straight points to pull his team to within five with just under four minutes remaining in the third quarter, but that was as close as the Indians got for the rest of the game as North Hall outscored them 34-22 in the second half.

North Hall freshman Ethan Smith, Syfan, Kanlor Coker and Chris Barnes each finished with seven points for the Trojans.

Senior E.J. Young finished as the Indians second leading scorer in his final game for Lumpkin County with 10 points.

“(Young) is a great player,” Wood said. “He’s just phenomenal but this was a great team effort tonight on our part.

“I could go down the line of 14 guys who made contributions for us.”

North Hall and East Hall face off at 8:30 p.m. Monday at Flowery Branch High.

Lumpkin County’s season is now complete.

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