Mary Kate Rushton needed one point to hit a milestone.
North Hall needed a win over last season’s subregion champions to start the Region 8-AAA North season off on the right foot.
It took Rushton until the second quarter, but the senior surpassed 1,000 career points, and it took the Lady Trojans until the final minutes, but they rallied past Chestatee 55-46 Friday night at Chestatee High in both teams’ subregion opener.
“It’s good just to start off on a strong note,” North Hall coach Kristi House said. “We want to challenge for a region championship, and now the games really count.”
And Rushton’s layup to open the second quarter counted for points 1,000 and 1,001 in her illustrious career, a milestone she was more than happy to put in the rearview mirror.
“I definitely wanted it to get over with,” said Rushton, who received a standing ovation from the North Hall fans during a timeout after the basket. “That was making me nervous, but I finally got it.”
Her layup put North Hall (10-4, 1-0 8-AAA North) ahead 13-6 early, but Chestatee (10-5, 0-1) would quickly come back. The hosts were within two points at the half and were down one after three quarters, before taking a 46-42 lead midway through the fourth when Danielle Stephens hit Meagan Kenimer (team-high 16 points) beneath the basket for an easy layup.
Chestatee wouldn’t score again.
“It’s youth and inexperience, we’ve got two sophomore guards out there,” Lady War Eagles coach Web Daniel said. “(North Hall’s) senior leadership came out a lot.”
And while senior Mary Kate Rushton reached a milestone with her first, and only, points of the game, it was her sister, McKenna Rushton, who kept North Hall in the mix. The senior, who surpassed 1,000 career points the week prior, is now well over 1,000 after tallying a team-high 21 points, all in the first three quarters.
In the fourth quarter North Hall’s Allie Staub sealed the win.
“Allie’s really stepped up her game and it shows,” House said.
Staub scored seven of her 13 points in the game’s final two minutes. With North Hall ahead 47-46 after a Sydney Cleveland layup, point guard Taylor Swoszowski (10 assists, seven steals, seven points) stole the ball from Chestatee and fed Staub on a fast break in the paint. Staub was fouled, made the basket and the free throw for a crucial 3-point play to put the Lady Trojans ahead 50-46 with 1:58 left.
To make matters worse for the young Lady War Eagles, starting guard Bridgette Kelly fouled out on the play.
Staub followed by sinking a 3-pointer on the next play to put North Hall ahead 53-46.
“We’ve got to play a better final three minutes,” said Daniel, whose Chestatee team lost in similar fashion to North Hall in the Lanierland tournament, when a six-point game midway through the fourth quarter turned into a 75-45 final.
“But I’m proud of this team, we’re getting better every day out. We’re going to be tough to beat late in the year.”
The Lady War Eagles proved just how tough they are to beat, especially beyond the arc, even now. Sophomore guard Emily Crain poured in 15 points, and shot five of the team’s eight 3-pointers playing in a loud and packed gym.
Chestatee plays at Stephens County in Toccoa at 6 p.m. Tuesday. North Hall goes out of the subregion to host Flowery Branch at 4 p.m. today.
NORTH HALL BOYS 60, CHESTATEE 46: With the Trojans (11-3) holding on to a 45-44 lead midway through the fourth quarter Friday at Chestatee, North Hall’s Ebo Smith took over to ice the win.
After nearly two minutes of playing keep away with the Chestatee defense, Smith (18 points) stepped up and sank a 3-pointer to put the visitors ahead by four, the first three of nine straight points by the point guard to put the game out of reach.
“He really stepped up down the stretch,” North Hall coach Benjie Wood said. “It’s nice down the stretch when players decide, I’m not going to let us lose this game.”
And even though Chestatee (0-14) is still looking for that first win, Wood didn’t expect anything less out of the War Eagles.
“That’s the best winless team I’ve ever seen,” Wood said. “They’re very capable and they’ll win sooner than later.
“I’m just glad the first win wasn’t against us.”
Preston Smith added 15 points for the Trojans, who sank nine 3-pointers.
Senior Cole Morgan led Chestatee with 20 points, including a pair of 3-pointers early in the fourth to get the War Eagles out of a nine-point hole. Passmore added 10 for Chestatee.
The War Eagles play again at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Stephens County. North Hall hosts Flowery Branch at 5:30 p.m. today.