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Trojans' defense carries them to second round
North Hall’s Robby Hill celebrates after scoring a basket for the Trojans in the closing seconds of the first quarter of Friday night’s round one playoff game with Central Carroll at the North Hall gymnasium.
During warmups prior to each game this season, North Hall has donned green long-sleeved T-shirts with a 16 on the front.
Friday night fourth-year Trojans coach Benjie Wood explained why.

“We’ve been told repeatedly that the sweet 16 was the ceiling for this program,” Wood said. “We’re trying to break through that.”

North Hall (23-3) will get its chance after a 70-42 win against Central-Carroll in the first round of the state playoffs Friday at North Hall.

With the win, the Trojans will play host to Franklin County, the No. 2 seed from Region 8-AAA, on Tuesday for the right to go to the round of eight.

“We love playing at home,” Wood said. “I wish we could play every game here.

“Our student section was once again fantastic, as was the community, and I hope they make their way back out here Tuesday.”

With both teams showing the offensive jitters expected in the first game of the state tournament, North Hall harnessed its nervous energy and produced on the other end of the floor.

Wood makes no bones about expecting his team to play good defense, and Friday night the Trojans more than came through.

They not only held Central-Carroll (9-20) to its second-lowest point total of the season (42), but forced six turnovers in the backcourt (24 total turnovers), three 5-second calls and took five charges. The Trojans also outrebounded Central-Carroll 36-32, an accomplishment considering the Lions have four players taller than 6-feet-2 and the Trojans only have one.

“I’m most proud of the charges,” Wood said. “We emphasized that this week because of the athleticism of (Central-Carroll) around the basket.

“I’m really proud of the kids effort tonight.”

When North Hall’s offensive did begin clicking, it did so with a flourish.

After Central-Carroll took an early lead at 7-4 thanks to five straight points by senior point guard Rashad Rowe, Wood called a timeout to settle his team down.

“We were trying to do too much and taking quick shots,” Wood said. “I just told them to play team ball instead of individual ball and settle down.”

As was the case defensively, the Trojans heeded their coach’s words.

Sparked by five straight points by senior Chase Syfan, the Trojans went on a 12-0 run out of the timeout to take an 18-10 lead.

A Robbie Hill offensive tip-in at the first-quarter buzzer put the Trojans up eight at 24-16.

Hill finished with 11 points and six rebounds. The Trojans were led by Chris Barnes, who scored 15 points, all from beyond the arc. All told, 11 North Hall players contributed in the scoring column while Lance White also added six assists.

The momentum brought about by the first-quarter run carried over into the second quarter. Not only did North Hall force turnovers on the Lions’ first two possessions, but went on a 7-0 run sparked and puntuated by a one-handed dunk by Kanlor Coker that brought the house down.

“We knew he was going to be open in the lane on that play,” Wood said. “We just didn’t know he was going to be that open.

“I told him that I thought he made the highlight reel on that one.”

North Hall went on to outscore Central-Carroll 46-26 in the game, taking a 30-point lead late in the third quarter after opening that quarter on a 13-0 run.

“We feel good about where we are,” Wood said. “We have to make layups, we’re still missing too many layups, but all in all, we feel good about where we are.”
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