MACON — For North Hall coach Benjie Wood, Friday night’s Class AAA state semifinal game came down to one team making more plays than the other.
Unfortunately for Wood and his Trojans, the team that made more plays was the opponent.
Led by Jamius Gunsby, who scored all of his 17 points in the second half including 13 in the fourth quarter, top-ranked LaGrange beat North Hall 60-49 to move on to the Class AAA state championship game.
LaGrange (31-0) will face Columbia at 8:45 tonight.
“I can’t put into words how proud I am of these kids,” Wood said. “I don’t know if there’s a word I can throw out there that describes how I feel and how much I love them. I’m just really proud.”
For the eighth-ranked Trojans (28-3), the difference was the fourth quarter.
While it never had a lead in the game, North Hall also didn’t let LaGrange go up by more than eight, and the Grangers held only a two-point lead at 40-38 after three quarters.
North Hall, however, which up until the final period was shooting 44 percent from the field, went cold just when LaGrange heated up. The Trojans shot just 23 percent in the fourth quarter to the Grangers 77 percent.
In fact, LaGrange started the fourth quarter on a 14-2 run led by Gunsby’s eight straight, including an emphatic one-handed dunk that all but demoralized North Hall.
“They made a few more plays than we did tonight,” Wood said. “Runs can win it or lose it for you and, unfortunately for us, it lost it for us.
“That’s the game of basketball though.”
From the onset, North Hall showed the kind of fight that put it in the state semifinals to begin with, not only on the scoreboard but in the stat column.
Led by Chase Syfan’s seven rebounds and Robert Humphrey’s six rebounds, North Hall managed to match the taller LaGrange team on the boards with each team getting 24 rebounds.
After LaGrange took a 12-5 lead on a runner by Martez Johnson, the Trojans fought back going on a 6-0 run of their own that was capped by a Lance White steal and layup.
Humphrey hit 1-of-2 free throws in the waning seconds to tie the score at 12 going into the second.
White finished with four points for North Hall while Humphrey, in his final game for the Trojans, scored six and grabbed six rebounds.
In each of the next two quarters, LaGrange went on a quarter-opening run only to have North Hall come back. But aside from the end of the first quarter, the Trojans never could even the score.
“We wanted to run it through,” he added of his team’s offense. “The kids were excited though and wanted to do too much at times and we’d turn it over or be one and done in the possession. Congratulations to LaGrange though. They’re an excellent team and deserved to win tonight.”
Sophomore Kanler Coker was a big reason why the Trojans were able to keep it close through three, as he scored 15 of his game-high 19 points prior to the start of the fourth quarter.
“We have several kids with very bright futures,” Wood said. “But right now, I just want to go into that locker room and tell those kids how much I love them and how proud I am of them.”
North Hall senior Trevor Ross was the second-leading scorer for the Trojans with 11 points and four rebounds.
“(This season) means a lot,” Ross said. “The seniors stepped up but so did the underclassmen.
“It took our whole team to come this far. I wanted to step up and win for Robby (Hill), who didn’t get to play in his last game for North Hall.”
The Trojans season is now complete.