The North Hall boys came out on top twice Friday at Buford.
First and most importantly for the Trojans (23-2, 13-1 Region 7-AAA), they won the regular season finale against the Wolves 68-63. Then after the game, with both teams tied with a 13-1 region mark, North Hall won the coin flip between the two coaches to secure the No. 1 seed to the Region 7-AAA tournament next week. Buford is now the No. 2 seed.
The Trojans won after dominating much of the second half with great free-throw shooting to compensate for Buford’s height advantage.
“We have a senior-laden team, character kids that stick together and fight together,” North Hall coach Benjie Wood said. “They work so hard.”
The win for North Hall secured a season split between the two teams after Buford (18-6, 13-1) won 52-45 on Jan. 15 in Gainesville.
The drawback for North Hall on the night was the injury to senior guard Ebo Smith (21 points) when he fell and hit his head on the court in the fourth quarter.
After the game, Wood said it was a concussion, but didn’t know the severity of the injury or how much game time he could potentially miss.
After a back-and-forth battle with the Wolves for the majority of the first three quarters, North Hall scored five times in the final 2:10 of the third period as part of a 14-2 scoring run to build a 46-34 lead.
Tied at 32 with 2:00 left to play in the third quarter, Griffin Olson (15 points) knocked down a 3-pointer for North Hall, followed by a basket from senior Zach Tibbs.
Most of the padding the Trojans added to their lead down the stretch was at the free throw line, making 14 straight at one point in the second half.
After the baskets from Olson and Tibbs, North Hall made seven straight at the free throw line, five from Olson, in the final minute of the third. With less than a second remaining the third period, Olson was fouled behind the 3-point line by Buford’s A.J. Davis, and converted on all of his attempts to establish North Hall’s biggest lead of the night at 46-34.
The loss snapped a 14-game winning streak for the Wolves.
“North Hall certainly played very well tonight,” Buford coach Allen Whitehart said. “Maybe this will be a wake-up call for us.”
Trailing by double digits in the fourth quarter, the Wolves put on a rally. Buford got the deficit down to as close as 54-50 with only 2:33 left in the game after a basket from Coby Durden and a pair of free throws from Isaiah Williams (25 points).
A.J. Davis (11 points) and Justice Bartley (10 points) were also in double digits for the Wolves.
In the first half, Williams started with a hot hand for Buford by making a 3-pointer on the first shot of the game.
Tibbs knotted it up with a 3-pointer for North Hall less than a minute later. The Trojans took their first lead on Smith’s 3-pointer late in the first quarter to make the score 9-8. North Hall got the lead back in the final seconds of the first quarter after a Brock Wingo basket, following a miss by Buford on a dunk attempt.
North Hall kept a small lead for part of the second quarter. First, Tibbs hit a 3-pointer to give the Trojans a 14-13 edge. Then with 5:50 left in the first half, Avery Cagle hit a jump shot to re-gain the lead for North Hall at 16-15.
Olson hit a 3-pointer with 3:10 left in the first half to tie the score at 20.
Buford led 22-20 at halftime.
North Hall and Buford both play host to first-round region tournament opponents on Tuesday. The semifinals and finals of the region tournament will be held at North Hall.
BUFORD GIRLS 73, NORTH HALL 40: Mackenzie Darrah and Bree Horrocks each scored a game-high 16 points for the Lady Wolves (19-4, 13-0) in Buford. The Lady Wolves led 20-9 after the first period, and extended their lead to 45-18 by halftime.
Jordan Nix led the Lady Trojans with 14 points. She hit three 3-pointers in the first quarter for all nine of North Hall’s points.