The ability to overcome obstacles and prevail is a key to success; and the North Hall boys basketball team proved that Wednesday night.
Despite a slow start offensively and the ejection of two of their players, the Trojans beat Franklin County 67-42 in the second round of the state tournament at North Hall.
With the win, the Trojans (25-3) move on to the state quarterfinals for the first time since 2001. They will play Riverwood at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at the Northwest Georgia Trade Center in Dalton.
Riverwood advanced earlier in the night Wednesday when it beat Johnson 55-52 on a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“We broke through (the round of 16), but we’re not satisfied,” North Hall coach Benjie Wood said. “Tonight was a great team effort like it always is and we’re going to keep rolling the same way.”
A physical game turned sour midway through the third quarter when tempers flared. The result was personal fouls and the ejection of North Hall’s Ty Smith and Robbie Hill and Franklin County’s Lee South.
Because of their ejections Smith and Hill, both seniors, will have to sit out the Trojans' quarterfinal game.
“It makes our task a lot harder,” said Wood of Hill, who kept his team in the game early thanks to 10 points in the first quarter, the team’s first 10 of the game.
“Robbie not playing is an obstacle, but we’ve faced those for four years. Now our goal will be to make sure that we go win this next one for those two young men.”
And if the Trojans’ play in the final three quarters is any indication, they’ll do just that.
Franklin County (19-11) came out with a purpose while North Hall showed a case of the jitters.
The Lions jumped out to a 7-2 lead capped by a KeShaun Mayfield steal and layup.
After a timeout, North Hall calmed down and came back, thanks to five straight points by senior Trevor Ross that gave the Trojans their first lead of the game at 19-18.
After a back-and-forth first two minutes of the second quarter, North Hall took another slim lead on back-to-back layups by seniors Robert Humphrey and Chase Syfan.
That slim lead only grew over the next four minutes thanks to sound defense and the play of Lance White.
White’s seventh point of the quarter — he finished as the game’s leading scorer with 20 — gave the Trojans a five-point lead trumped only by the team ending the quarter on a 4-0 run that pushed their lead to six.
In that quarter-ending spurt, North Hall clicked on all cylinders. A Kanler Coker steal on the defensive end ended in a Chris Barnes layup on the other. The next possession, Coker grabbed a rebound and once again pushed it ahead to Barnes who converted on another layup.
Barnes finished with 11 points for North Hall, which outrebounded Franklin County 26-13 for the game while also amassing nine steals.
“Rebounding goes back to heart,” Wood said. “We might be short on stature but we’re nowhere close to short on heart and the guys showed it with another great defensive outing and on the boards.”
Roles reversed at the start of the second half as North Hall came out with renewed purpose which seemed to cause Franklin to fall flat.
With five minutes to go in the third, North Hall took its first double-digit lead on 3-pointers by White and Barnes on two straight possessions.
The Trojans rolled from there and outscored the Lions 30-11 in the second half en route to the win.
The Lions, whose season is now over, were led by Mattavious Scott and Dale Walker who each had 10 points.