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North Hall girls, boys basketball teams stand tall late to sweep region foe Dawson County
North Hall's Niki Carver, left, goes around Dawson County's Anna Lowe for a basket during the third quarter of Tuesday's game in Gainesville. - photo by Scott Rogers | The Times

Kristi House devotes a portion of the North Hall girls basketball team’s practices to drilling late-game situations.

That was apparent Tuesday night.

The Lady Trojans survived a late push by Dawson County to secure a 55-44 win in Region 7-AAA play on their home court. After going to overtime in three games this season and playing within single digits in five others, North Hall (10-7, 3-2 region) had the experience on its side.

“This team this season, we’ve had a lot of close games,” House said. “So we try to work on those situations a lot, and we feel like we have senior guards that can step up down the stretch. I think we’re getting better at it, but we’ve still got a way to go, though.”

The Lady Trojans’ senior guard combo indeed made big plays in the team’s first action since securing fifth place at the Lanierland tournament last week.

Taylor Anne Kelley scored a game-high 24 points, while Sadie Cleveland notched 15 of her 22 in the fourth quarter after Kelley briefly exited the contest with an ankle injury. Cleveland’s late-game scoring outburst helped North Hall hang onto a lead the Lady Tigers (5-11, 2-2) had reduced to only three points.

“They fought back. They’re a good team, and we knew they would,” House said. “We were lucky to have a couple people step up when they did to finish it out for us.”

Kelley nailed a 3-pointer on the game’s first possession, and North Hall quickly jumped out to a double-digit lead. The Lady Trojans held onto a sizeable advantage for most of the game thanks to an aggressive defense that recorded 17 steals.

Kelley, who snagged six of those steals, scored five quick points to put North Hall ahead 37-22 with just more than two minutes to play in the third quarter.

But Dawson County closed the period on a 10-0 run, prompting House to refocus her players.

“I told them to remain calm and keep doing what they do,” the coach said. “I didn’t feel like we played great in the third quarter. That was kind of a down quarter for us. We just had to get back to doing what we do and play better defense.”

Cleveland hit back-to-back 3-pointers to increase the Lady Trojans’ lead to eight points and nailed another one two minutes later to make it 49-40. She then sank five free throws to hold off the Lady Tigers for a crucial region win.

Junior guards Abi Chatham and Calli Watson paced Dawson County with 10 points apiece, while forward Emma Brown pulled down 10 rebounds.

But that statistic that mattered most to House was the Lady Tigers making just four 3-pointers. The coach said she was worried about Dawson County’s ability to score from long range, but North Hall’s defense provided enough pressure to eliminate that concern.

“They didn’t shoot it very well tonight,” House said, “but we know we’re lucky to get out of here with a region win.”

NORTH HALL BOYS 60, DAWSON COUNTY 55 (OT): Struggles at free-throw line down the stretch almost cost the Trojans (10-7, 3-2) a region win.

Despite making just seven of 13 free throws in overtime, North Hall managed to fend off a Tigers team that came surging back at the end of regulation. Cullen Reed scored five of his game-high 26 points in the final 20 seconds of regulation to force the extra period.

The Trojan’s early lead dissipated in the third quarter as Dawson County (8-8, 2-2) turned the game into an intense, back-and-forth affair. There were four lead changes in the first two minutes of the fourth quarter, which senior guard Alden Lewallen (13 points) opened with a 3-pointer.

Jeremiah Crumley tallied 15 points for the Tigers, while North Hall senior guard Evan Easton added 11.

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