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North Hall girls flat in second half, drop second-round playoff game at Johnson-Savannah
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Johnson-Savannah's Alexis Pierce (4) evades North Hall players Caroline Hearn (4) and Tatum McQuillen (23) during the second half of the second-round playoff game in Savannah. - photo by Josh Galemore

The North Hall girls basketball team was undone by a 31-4 run that helped Johnson-Savannah pull off a 64-38 victory in the second round of the Class AAA state playoffs Thursday night in Savannah.

The No. 3 seed Lady Trojans (19-11) held a nine-point lead early in the second quarter before 5-foot-1 junior guard Sy’Marieona Williams led the No. 1 seed Atomsmashers (25-2) on their furious comeback.

“I just knew I had to put my team on my back,” said Williams, who finished with a game-high 18 points. “In a situation like that, people depend on me.”

Williams had 11 points in the devastating run that turned North Hall’s 21-12 advantage into a Johnson 43-25 rout in a span of about 11 minutes.

Two long 3-pointers by Williams highlighted the Smashers’ 16-2 spurt to end the second quarter. Williams had a steal and a layup and a conventional three-point play during Johnson’s 15-2 run to begin the third quarter.

The Lady Trojans had only seven field goals during the final 23 minutes and 20 seconds. It didn’t help that they shot 3-of-10 from the foul line.

“Naturally, we’re trying to win (a state championship),” Smashers coach Brandon Lindsey said. “We’re not looking at matchups. It sounds cliche, but we’re taking it game by game. This game started a little ugly for us before we got the hot hand, but we played well on defense. Our team goal every game is to hold our opponent to 30 points.”

From the Lady Trojans’ vantage point, the game couldn’t have started better, and it appeared their disciplined approach could be problematic. They easily handled Johnson’s full-court pressure defense and sank four-3-pointers while building a 21-12 lead with 5:20 left in the second quarter.

And the Smashers were skating shorthanded. High-scoring guard Olivia Owens sat out with a MCL sprain. Another key offensive piece, Alexis Pierce, picked up her second foul with 2:34 to go in the first quarter and took a seat on the bench.
But Williams heated up and Pierce returned to the court and sank two threes in the second-quarter burst.

“They can hit big shots,” North Hall coach Kristi House said. “You either have to get stops or answer, and we did neither.”
Pierce finished with 17 points and J’Mya Cutler added 14.

Taylor Anne Kelley led the Lady Trojans with 11. Tatum McQuillen had 10.

Johnson had a slight scare in the final minutes when Williams hit the court hard after being fouled on an attempted a layup. Williams was carried off the court with a bruised knee but seemed to be much better after the game.

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