GAINESVILLE -- It takes more than one strong smack to create a hole in a cement wall. It’s the consistent chipping away of one area that does the trick.
The North Hall boys didn’t hit a big 3-pointer or have an incredible scoring game by one person in their 61-59 win over perennial powerhouse and Class AAA No. 7-ranked East Hall on Tuesday night at East Hall High. Rather, the Trojans (10-4, 3-0) kept the score close throughout and consistently chipped away at the five-, six- or seven-point leads until they took a late lead themselves and won the game.
"We came out and competed," North Hall coach Benjie Wood said. "We’re trying to take steps in our program and, obviously, this is a huge step. I mean, East Hall’s been a benchmark and for us to come in here and compete and sneak away with a win; I’m really proud of my guys, they fought their hearts out."
The Vikings (12-4, 2-1) started the game fast and strong opening up the first quarter on an 11-5 run thanks, in part, to a combined three 3-pointers by seniors Dedric Ware and Trevor Bishop.
A late 3-pointer by North Hall’s Chase Syfan, following a Josh Haymore steal and assist, left North Hall only down six going into the second quarter.
Syfan finished the game with eight points.
As would be the case for most of the game, North Hall cut the Vikings’ lead to three on an Ethan Satterfield bank shot early in the second quarter only to have East Hall’s Ken Wise answer with a fadeaway from the block.
The Trojans finished the half down by eight after a second quarter in which they were 8-of-14 from the free throw line.
"We talked at halftime about every possession making them work for what they get," Wood said. "Good players are going to make plays, but we want them to work for those plays and earn in and I thought we did a good job of that in the second half."
After an all-East Hall start to the second half, North Hall made a run of its own sparked by a 3-pointer from the top of the key by Haymore, who finished the game as the team’s second leading scorer with 10 points.
The 10-2 run, which included another Haymore 3-pointer and layups by senior Fabian Jackson and Syfan, brought the Trojans within one at 40-39.
With one minute, 25 seconds left in the third quarter, two free throws by East Hall’s Wise extended the Vikings’ lead to three points, but on North Hall’s next possession sophomore Robert Humphrey hit a runner in the lane to bring his team back within one.
The Vikings’ Bishop took over from there ending the quarter with five straight points, including a 3-pointer from the corner and a steal plus a layup, to extend his team’s lead to six going into the final period.
Bishop finished as the game’s leading scorer with 15 points and Wise, along with Joshten Hopkins, finished with 11 points.
The fourth quarter belonged to the Trojans beginning with a 3-pointer by Andrew Peck to bring North Hall within three with six minutes to go.
Peck finished the game with a team-high 14 points.
A few East Hall baskets didn’t thwart North Hall’s confidence and with 2:40 left in the game they tied it at 54 on a 3-pointer from the right wing by Ethan Satterfield.
Satterfield then gave his team the lead for good on North Hall’s ensuing possession when he drove down the right side of the lane and hit a layup.
"I’ve been on Ethan really hard," Wood said. "He’s a really good player and doesn’t realize how good he can be, about not being scared and stepping up big and I think he’s going from a boy to a man."
Satterfield’s play down the stretch, along with timely misses at the free-throw line by East Hall and makes by North Hall, gave the Trojans the win.
"We played as a team and when you do that good things will happen to you," Wood said. "I couldn’t be more proud of my kids."
North Hall returns to action Friday at Lumpkin County while East Hall next plays Friday at White County.
East Hall girls 56, North Hall 48
East Hall’s Jessica Blackwell hit the shot heard ‘round Macon in the Class AAA state semifinals last year. Her game-winning 3-pointer in the waning seconds against Kendrick put her team in the state finals.
While Tuesday’s 58-46 win over North Hall wasn’t close to the state semifinals, the Lady Vikings’ senior saw fit to once again step up and hit a big shot when her team needed it.
After spending the better part of the game without a field goal, Blackwell hit a 3-pointer with 3:53 to go in the game to not only give her team their final lead of the game at 48-45, but spark an 8-0 run that led to a win.
"I was down at the half and my teammates told me to keep shooting because I am a shooter and that’s what I do best," Blackwell said.
"Jessica has spent the last three games lighting it up," East Hall coach Joey Rider said, "and I told her to stay positive, stay focused and good things will happen."
The first quarter was a back-and-forth battle and ended knotted at 13.
East Hall senior Sada Wheeler and North Hall’s Letiecia Davenport matched each other basket for basket with each scoring six in the first period.
The tit-for-tat continued into the second period, but East Hall was able to pull away slightly at the end of the half thanks to a 5-1 run sparked by a 3-pointer from the top of the key by Dorreka Faulkner.
The Lady Vikings continued their offensive onslaught into the second half, extending their lead on the inside play of Wheeler and fellow senior Tierra Benton.
The four seniors (Wheeler, Benton, Blackwell and Sonata Chester), for the most part for the second half of the year have been reliable," Rider said. "If you’re going to win ball games late in the season, the seniors have to step up. I expect them to do that and they expect it of themselves.
East Hall’s first seven second-half points were scored by the duo.
Wheeler finished the game with a 17 points, Benton added 12 and five blocks.
North Hall, as was the case for most of the night, came roaring back. Down four early in the final period, sophomore Shannon Haire hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key and then received a pass from senior Elizabeth Williams and hit a layup giving her team a one-point lead. Williams extended that lead to three when she stole the ball and drove the length of the floor for a layup.
East Hall’s Sonata Chester tied the game back up with a 3-pointer and then gave her team the lead with a short jumper.
Davenport’s layup on North Hall’s subsequent possession knotted the game at 45 and Blackwell’s second field goal of the game sparked the game-winning run.
Davenport finished with a game-high 23 points and Williams had 13.
"From day one we’ve talked about improving every game," Rider said. "And if you look at our stats we’ve really done that. It comes down to whose playing best at the end and that’s our focus. It’s not who we play but how we’re playing that matters."
The Lady Vikings return to action at 7 p.m. Friday at White County, while North Hall plays at 7 p.m. Friday at Lumpkin County.