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Region 8-AAA tournament: North Hall girls hold off Chestatee for title
North Hall’s Allie Staub, left, grabs a rebound under the basket next to Chestatee High’s Danielle Stephens during the Lady Trojans Region 8-AAA championship win over Chestatee at the Gainesville High gymnasium Saturday night. - photo by Scott Rogers | The Times

Even when the momentum seemed to swing against her team, North Hall girls coach Kristi House said she never lost faith.

She might've had good reason when Chestatee charged ahead in the Region 8-AAA championship game, but for the game's final 12 minutes, the Lady Trojans showed why they've earned their coach's trust, pulling away for a 42-29 win and the program's first region title since 1991. House, by the way, was a player on that team.

"I never had a doubt," House said just moments after hoisting the trophy. "This team was together for a reason, and we were going to win that championship."

The North Hall boys couldn't make it a Trojan sweep, however, falling to Walnut Grove 57-51 in the boys title game after leading by as many as 11 late in the second quarter.
The Trojans (24-4) will be the No. 2 seed from 8-AAA in the state playoffs next weekend and will host the winner of Saturday night's Lafayette-Cartersville matchup.

As the top seed in 8-AAA, the North Hall girls (21-7) will host the loser of Saturday's 7-AAA consolation game between Pickens and Gilmer.

The Lady War Eagles (18-10), 8-AAA's No. 2 seed, will host the Pickens/Gilmer winner next weekend.

Saturday's 8-AAA girls championship was defined by two extended stretches in which North Hall held Chestatee scoreless.

The first allowed the Lady Trojans to jump out to an 11-0 lead before the Lady War Eagles got on the board with an Erin Clifford 3-pointer more than halfway through the first quarter.

The second proved even more devastating.

After Chestatee took a 26-23 lead a little more than halfway through the third quarter, North Hall regained control.

With Maegan Kenimer, the Lady War Eagles' most consistent source of offense relegated to the bench in foul trouble, North Hall went on a 13-0 run that lasted nearly five minutes and squelched Chestatee's hopes.

"They're a good team, so we knew they'd make a run," House said of Chestatee. "We just had to weather that storm. Our kids have a never-quit attitude. They've worked so hard, and I really wanted them to have this feeling."

The 3-pointer, which Chestatee shot so effectively in advancing to the finals, betrayed the team Saturday.
The Lady War Eagles hit seven 3s just in the first half in their semifinal win over Oconee County, but against North Hall, they made just 2 of 12 in the game.

The Lady Trojans' smothering full-court defense surely played a role in that. North Hall held Chestatee to just 10 second-half points and only three in the final quarter.

North Hall senior McKenna Rushton led all scorers with 18 points, shooting 7 of 13 from the field.

Kenimer led Chestatee with 14.

WALNUT GROVE BOYS 57, NORTH HALL BOYS 51: After the Trojans controlled the first 15 minutes of the game, the Warriors turned the tables in the final 17.

North Hall seemed to be closing in on its second region title in three seasons, leading by 11 late in the first half.

But Walnut Grove (25-3), which is in just its third year of existence, closed the half with three consecutive points, including a buzzer-beating jumper from Nick Peters that closed the gap to 32-24 at halftime.

From there, the Warriors' highly aggressive half-court defense began to pay dividends, disrupting the rhythm of a North Hall offense that had been so smooth early in the game.

"They were doing that (half-court trap) in the second quarter," Trojans coach Benjie Wood said. "We just didn't execute (in the second half.)"

Still, North Hall held the Warriors at arm's length for most of the second half, but the lead was steadily shrinking.

With 5:30 minutes remaining, the Warriors took their first lead since the game's opening stages and never trailed again.

"We made a couple of mistakes you can't make against a senior-laden team," Wood said. "(Walnut Grove's) experience showed tonight. Hats off to them. And I'm still extremely proud of our guys."

Ebo Smith led the Trojans with 17 points; Adam Kelly added 10.

Peters posted a game-high 18 for Walnut Grove, which won its first region title.

OCONEE COUNTY GIRLS 56, GAINESVILLE 54: Despite 19 points from Hunter Pugh, the Lady Red Elephants fell in the Region 8-AAA third-place game Saturday at Gainesville.

The game was close throughout and the fourth quarter began with the teams knotted at 44. It remained tight until the final buzzer.

Gainesville's Keke Harris drained a 3-pointer with a little more than two minutes remaining that cut Oconee County's lead to 55-54. The Lady Red Elephants had two more possession still trailing by one, but couldn't get a shot to fall.

Oconee County's Gabby Bevillard led all scorers with 23, while Briana Dickens added 16.

Rebecca Webster scored 14 for Gainesville, which will travel to face the winner of Allatoona/Cartersville in the first round of the state playoffs.

FRANKLIN COUNTY 65, MONROE AREA 63: The Lions won the boys third-place game Saturday at Gainesville behind 16 points from Braxton Shiflet.


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