The North Hall basketball team prides itself on playing solid defense.
The general goal: Keep opposing teams under 40 points.
Friday night in Gainesville the Trojans very nearly accomplished that goal against another one of Region 7-AAA’s top teams, defeating Dawson County 56-42.
Even though they allowed a couple more points than the goal, the Trojans (14-1, 6-0) were proud of their defensive effort.
“We pride ourselves on defense, and we don’t like it when a team goes past our goal,” said North Hall senior Ebo Smith, who scored 19 points in the win. “We like to keep it to 40 or under, but we did good.”
A win over the team ranked No. 1 in Class AAA at the start of the week, and which was undefeated until a Tuesday loss to Buford, now sets up a key Region 7-AAA meeting between the last two undefeated teams in the region — North Hall and Buford at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in Gainesville.
Put in another defensive effort like Friday’s, and Smith said he thinks North Hall can at least hang around long enough to have a chance to win at the end against a team North Hall coach Benjie Wood said looks like a college team.
“Let’s not kid ourselves,” Wood said. “Buford’s an all-star team.”
Smith is just looking to have that chance at the end.
“Hopefully we can stay with them until the end, and then we have a chance to win,” Smith said. “They like to play just like us, push the ball down the court.”
Against Dawson County (14-2, 4-2), which lost to Buford 53-36 in Dawsonville, North Hall was able to beat the Tigers’ zone defense by pushing the ball down the court.
After a first quarter in which the Trojans’ were held to just five points, they went on a 9-0 run and then an 8-0 run — both in the second quarter — to take a 31-19 lead at the half. Smith capped off a 26-point second quarter with a quick pass inside to Adam Kelly (19 points) for a layup to beat the buzzer and increase the lead to 12.
Wood credited Matt Booth with coming off the bench to spark the defense in the crucial second quarter in which North hall held Dawson County to just eight points.
“Matt Booth came out and he was our spark in the second quarter,” Wood said. “He ignited us. He was the spark that lifted us.
“We really picked up the defensive intensity tonight, especially in the second quarter.”
Griffin Olson added 11 points for the Trojans, who maintained at least an eight-point lead throughout the second half.
For Dawson County, it was a second consecutive frustrating loss after a perfect start, and one that dropped the Tigers behind North Hall and Buford in the region standings. It was also the second game that Will Anglin, Dawson County’s premier 3-point shooter, did not play.
Instead it was Tigers’ forward Camron Chester who led the team with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Gunnar Armstrong added 10 points, and Tyler Dominy blocked five shots in the first half alone, but finished with just three points.
Now North Hall will get a chance at the team that started Dawson County’s two-game slide. And, like Dawson County, North Hall’s first chance is at home, something Smith is happy about.
“I love playing here,” he said while standing in the North Hall gym after the game, which had attracted an overflowing crowd. “I know I’m biased, but this is a fantastic place to play, great fans.
“I don’t mind playing on the road, but there’s nothing like playing at home.”
DAWSON COUNTY GIRLS 55, NORTH HALL 51: The Lady Tigers rallied from a five-point deficit early in the fourth and held off the Lady Trojans for a key Region 7-AAA win.
Carly Gilreath led Dawson County (14-2, 4-2) with 16 points and Sheyenne Seabolt added 14 as the Lady Tigers went on a 15-2 run after falling behind 45-40 to secure the win.
Kacie Bearden’s only points of the game were three of the most important for Dawson County as she sank a 3-pointer to put Dawson County ahead 46-45 — a lead it would hold the rest of the way — with 5:15 remaining in the game.
Ashley Parker followed with consecutive offense rebounds and put-back layups after the Lady Tigers missed on consecutive trips to the line. Dawson County finished just 5 of 12 from the free throw line.
The Lady Trojans (9-6, 3-3) finished 6 of 10 from the line, but what kept them in the game was their 3-point shooting (nine made 3-pointers) and their rebounding (outrebounded a tall Dawson County team 33-29).
Dawson County was ahead or tied most of the game, but North Hall went ahead 38-35 on a 3-pointer by Allie Staub late in the third quarter to give the Trojans their first lead since early in the first.
Katie Sayres led North Hall with 13 points, Staub added 10 and Kensi Gillespie and Taylor Phillips each finished with eight points.
Both teams entered 3-2 in region play, but Dawson County’s win tied it with Banks County for second in the region behind Buford, although the Lady Leopards currently hold the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Both teams continue region play next week. North Hall will play next at 6 p.m. Tuesday against Buford in Gainesville. Dawson County returns to action at 6 p.m. Tuesday against West Hall in Dawsonville. Boys games will follow the girls.