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Prep basketball: Lady Trojans dethrone defending champs
North Hall’s Ana Porras (40) Letiecia Davenport, center, and Bradee Burrell, left, celebrate after the Lady Trojans’ win over East Hall on Friday night in Region 7-AAA tournament action at the Gainesville High gymnasium. North Hall will take on Gainesville at 6 p.m. tonight in the region championship game at Gainesville High. - photo by Scott Rogers | The Times

Throughout the season North Hall junior Bradee Burrell has battled the one thing that can be detrimental to a player known for their shooting ability: Lack of confidence.

"It’s (confidence) been a tough battle all season, but I came to the gym a couple of Saturdays and worked on shooting," Burrell said. "And got my confidence back up."

That she did, scoring 12 points on four 3-pointers and leading North Hall (19-9) to the Region 7-AAA tournament finals with a 43-39 win over defending region and state champs East Hall on Friday afternoon at Gainesville High.

"Bradee was hot tonight," North Hall coach Debbie Blake said. "It was great to get her confidence back up."

The Lady Trojans will face Gainesville for the region title at 6 tonight at Gainesville High.

The tenth-ranked Lady Vikings (19-6) managed to maintain a lead for most of the first half thanks to the shooting and rebounding of senior shooting guard Jessica Blackwell and inside play of senior center Sada Wheeler, a South Carolina signee.

The two combined for 18 of the Lady Vikings’ 22 first-half points, Blackwell with 10 of those points on 4-of-7 shooting.

"We fussed at the girls in the first quarter," Blake said. "We told them, ‘You have to believe.’"

"We had to make some adjustments on defense. We have only played zone a couple of times this year and played it the entire game tonight."

The Lady Trojans took the lead once in the first quarter on a Burrell 3-pointer, but it lasted no longer than a possession thanks to a Dorreka Faulkner layup on the other end.

Rougly two minutes into the first half, East Hall looked to have the momentum to build a sizable lead thanks to a 3-pointer by Blackwell to open the half that put the Lady Vikings up by six points.

A Letiecia Davenport pump fake, drive and jumper with less than a minute to go in the quarter, however, once again brought North Hall within one point of the lead at 27-26. That score would stand heading into the final period.

The confidence that exuded from the East Hall girls team in the first half seemed to have slowly been worn thin by North Hall’s resilience, and disappeared completely when North Hall sophomore Mallory Rich tied the game at 32 early in the final period with a short jumper. The Lady Trojans then opened the fourth quarter on a 14-5 run, capped by back-to-back 3-pointers by Burrell and Elizabeth Williams, one assisting for the other.

Williams finished the game with 10 points.

The fourth-quarter run was the only one North Hall was able to mount all game and it proved to be the only one they needed.

East Hall senior Wheeler finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds, Blackwell led the team with 18 points and seven rebounds.

"I believed in these girls and wanted them to believe in themselves," Blake said. "We wanted to even up the matchup and when we beat Pickens last week I said, "This means we can beat East Hall again.’"

"This win means so much for for us," Burrell said. "It means we can compete with anyone, not only in this region, but in the state."

With the loss, East Hall will play for the third seed out of Region 7-AAA against Gilmer at 3 today at Gainesville High.

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