Playing winning basketball can be reduced to one big chain reaction for North Hall boys coach Benjie Wood. Great defense leads to creating turnovers, which in turn creates scoring opportunities and more often than not a win. And after a sloppy start, that’s exactly what the Trojans (10-5, 2-0 Region 8A-AAA) did in Saturday’s 56-35 win against White County in Gainesville.
In the girls game, Mary Kate Rushton finished with a game-high 22 points and 11 rebounds in a 62-54 North Hall victory.
After North Hall’s boys started out in a 10-0 hole against White County, Chris Barnes drained a pair of consecutive 3-point baskets and finished the game with a team-high 18 points. Then in the second half, Barnes hit four more 3-pointers.
Wood says all the points start and end with great defense.
“The 3’s are nice,” Wood said. “But it’s defense that gets it all going and the team was really playing with passion from about half way through the third quarter on.”
Leading by six points heading into the fourth quarter, North Hall kept it up on the defensive end. Inside play from Imani Cross and Kanler Coker for the Trojans created a number of turnovers and sparked a 13-0 North Hall run. Cross (8 points) started the dominating fourth quarter for the Trojans with a pair of layups created by forcing White County (8-6, 1-1) into offensive turnovers.
Following another Barnes 3-pointer, his sixth of the game, the Trojans forced yet another turnover on the Warriors’ inbound pass. Parker Smith and Ethan Smith each added a fourth-quarter 3-pointer for North Hall.
Not only was Barnes hitting big long-range shots for the Trojans, but Wood was pleased with his senior guard’s leadership after the team trailed by double-digits early.
“He brought a lot of energy to the team,” Wood said. “Then in the second half, our energy level went through the roof.”
In the first quarter, it was the Warriors with the hot hand. Andrew London and JR Hurst each hit a 3-pointer as part of the Warriors 10-0 run in the first six minutes of play. Barnes’ first 3-pointer was North Hall’s first basket with only 1:07 left to play in the first quarter.
Cole Segraves, a sophomore, led the Warriors with 15 points.
North Hall plays host to Franklin County at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday. White County plays host to Stephens County on Tuesday.
NORTH HALL GIRLS 62, WHITE COUNTY 54: McKenna Rushton and Sarah Paschall each scored 14 points and added six rebounds for the Lady Trojans (6-8, 1-1) as they maintained a lead that hovered around 10 points for most of the second half. Taylor Swoszowski finished with nine points for North Hall.
After not being able to play for seven days, the Lady Trojans got on the floor for their first practice all week on Friday. North Hall built its biggest lead in the second half with a layup by Mary Kate Rushton off an assist from Paschall to extend its lead to 50-38 with 2 minutes left in the third period.
“We were more balanced today than we have been,” North Hall coach Kristi House said. “We seemed to pick up well after so many days off.
“I’m proud of our kids.”
Shauna Anderson led White County (4-9) with 14 points and Riley Slaton added 12.
North Hall plays host to Franklin County, while White County plays host to Lumpkin County at 6 p.m. on Tuesday.