OAKWOOD – After suffering their first loss of the year and escaping the first round of Lanierland with a close win over Lakeview Academy, North Hall coach Benjie Wood knew his team needed a quality win.
He got that and then some during Wednesday’s semifinals against Flowery Branch.
Behind a game-high 17 points from Ethan Smith, and a stifling defense that held the Falcons to just eight points in the second half, the Trojans (6-1) rolled to a 67-32 win to advance to the Lanierland championship game against East Hall at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at West Hall High.
“I knew we were ready to play,” Wood said. “With the loss to Swainsboro and then the game against Lakeview, we lost our focus and got over confident.”
Wood said those two games ultimately made his team better, and that showed against Flowery Branch (3-4).
After finishing the first quarter tied at 15, the Trojans built a 13 point lead at halftime and inflated that to 30 points with 2:50 to play. They did all that while holding Flowery Branch to four points in each of the final two quarters.
“Even our third unit went in there and shut them down,” Wood said. “We played really well tonight.”
Wood knows he’ll need that type of performance in the finals when the Trojans try and win their second straight Lanierland title.
“Anytime when you can win Lanierland, it means a lot,” Wood said. “Basketball in this county is like the ACC; people are crazy about it.”
They’re especially crazy when games feature two quality teams like the Trojans and Vikings, who met earlier this year in front of a packed house at East Hall.
“People better get here early because there won’t be an empty seat,” Wood said of Thursday’s atmosphere. “We’re going to come out and compete like crazy.”
James Hodges’ nine points led Flowery Branch, which plays Gainesville at 4:30 p.m. in the third-place game.