North Hall’s boys basketball team solidified back-to-back seasons making the state tournament Wednesday with a 53-33 win over Johnson.
“Back-to-back years of making the tournament is a great accomplishment,” said Trojans coach Tyler Sanders. “I told them to enjoy it and celebrate it and we’ll get back to work tomorrow.”
Sanders said he’s talked with other coaches and they all agree the first game of the region tournament is the toughest game of the season.
“It’s the hardest one to keep your mind set on because it’s win or go home,” Sanders said. “You never know what’s going to happen in that game.”
North Hall will next play North Oconee in the Region 8-AAAA semifinals at Stephens County in Toccoa. That game will tip at 5:30 p.m. Friday.
The Trojans (20-6) began pulling away in the third quarter after both teams had an underwhelming 18-13 first half.
“I can’t say enough about how proud I am of our guys,” Sanders said. “When you hold someone to 33 points, you’re doing something defensively. To come out in the second half and finally start making shots, that makes a big difference.”
Carson Heinen scored seven of his 13 game-high points in that third period to help North Hall separate itself.
Andrew Sims posted six points in the third in an attempt to keep the Knights (7-18) in the game.
Despite Sims’ effort, the Trojans had a 38-26 lead heading into the final quarter.
In the fourth, North Hall spread scoring between six different players, just as it did in the third, and solidified its 20-point victory.
The first period saw both teams score seven points each and take almost two minutes before either squad put points on the board.
“That’s nerves,” Sanders said. “That’s everybody so fired up, so amped up and anxious to play. We haven’t played since Friday. The kids were anxious and ready to play. They were just a little over-excited.”
Overall, the Trojans had nine players put points on the board.
“That’s what we preach every day,” Sanders said. “We talked about it the last few days at practice and talked about it before the game. We do it together, no matter what we do. We’re always together. That’s just the definition of these guys. They love each other and they love to see each other succeed.”
Evan Easton followed Heinen’s 13 points with 12 of his own for North Hall.
Andrew Sims led Johnson with eight points on the night as seven Knights scored.