For the final four minutes of Tuesday night's game, North Hall watched anxiously as its hard-earned lead started to slip away.
From seven points down to five, from five down to two; each missed free throw ratcheting up the tension and keeping sixth-ranked Carrollton within striking distance.
But when things weren't going right on offense or at the foul line, the Lady Trojans made amends on defense, holding on for a nerve-wracking 47-45 win to send the North Hall girls to their first berth in the state quarterfinals since 2006.
The Lady Trojans will take on the winner of No. 4 Allatoona and Columbus at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Northwest Georgia Trade Center in Dalton.
"We tried to make it interesting down the stretch, which is disappointing after the way we shot (in a first-round win over Pickens)," North Hall coach Kristi House said.
"But our girls found a way to win and this is big for our seniors and big for our whole team."
In a game dominated by tough defense and clutch shots, neither team held a lead larger than seven points.
For every run Carrollton made in the first half, North Hall had an answer. And in the second half, the roles reversed.
"(North Hall) did a good job," Carrollton coach Shon Thomaston said. "When they got down, they fought back.
Then when they got a lead, my team turned around and did the same thing. Honestly, I just thought that was a classic ball game. If anybody wants an example of what girls basketball should be about, that's the game you can show them, right there."
After trailing for most of the first half, North Hall surged ahead to open the third quarter on back-to-back 3-pointers from McKenna Rushton.
Not to be outdone, Carrollton point guard Kenyatta Hendrix kept the pressure on when she sank a pair of her own consecutive treys late in the fourth quarter.
Hendrix (16 points) and Rushton (21 points, 10 rebounds) led their respective teams in scoring, hitting big shot after big shot in crucial situations. But they got plenty of help, as well.
North Hall senior post player Sarah Paschall scored six key points late in the third quarter and early in the fourth to keep Carrollton at bay and push North Hall to a seven-point lead.
She also added a pair of free throws in the final 90 seconds when North Hall was struggling to get a bucket.
She finished with eight points and 10 rebounds.
"We challenged Sarah tonight," House said. "(Carrollton has) a huge post player. Everybody says their guards are good, but their post players are good, too, so we really challenged (Paschall) tonight, and she stepped up and played great. I mean the rebounding was tremendous, and I just can't say enough about that."
North Hall seemed to be in control when Rushton sank her third 3-pointer of the night, staking her team to a 39-32 lead with 4:30 minutes remaining.
But the game was marked by defense - smothering man-to-man from Carrollton and aggressive zone from North Hall - and points became tough to come by for North Hall just as Hendrix was heating up.
North Hall went 0 for 4 on free-throw attempts after Paschall's two from the stripe, but was saved by strong defense and good rebounding as Carrollton missed its final five field goal attempts and shot just 30 percent from the field for the game.
"I don't know if I can say anything made a difference other than just two teams out there on the floor acting like they really, really wanted it," Thomaston said. "The bottom line is, I think they made one more play than we did. I thought we played a heck of a ball game. There were times when it just wouldn't find the bottom of the net. We had the opportunities."
Meanwhile, outside the home locker room, House struggled to find the right words to describe her team's mood as it prepares for its trip to the quarterfinals.
"It's just euphoria," House said. "It's the most excited they've ever been. They've just put their heart and soul into basketball, most of them for their whole life. Everybody's pulling together at the right time, and we just have to continue."