The North Hall and Cherokee Bluff boys basketball teams played neck-and-neck for three and a half quarters Friday night in the regular season finale between the teams, but when it mattered most, the Trojans found another gear. Leading by just 4 midway through the fourth quarter, North Hall prevented the Bears from making a single shot from the field in the final four minutes to roll to a 59-48 win.
The result gives the Trojans the No. 3 seed in the Region 7-3A tournament, setting them up for a matchup against East Hall next Tuesday evening in the first round.
“Both teams were really getting after it,” North Hall coach Tyler Sanders said after the game. “That’s two teams that play basketball the right way. Our kids just competed. We made a couple more shots in some big situations, made a few free throws down the stretch, which is big. I’m just super proud of our kids.”
Senior Samir Huete came up big for the Trojans on senior night, leading the team with 22 points and connecting on a trio of 3-pointers. Huete also scored the final 5 points of the game to close things out, making 9 of 11 free throw attempts on the night to ensure the North Hall victory.
Despite the somewhat lopsided final score, the game was close pretty much throughout.
The Trojans struck first with a 10-1 run through the middle of the opening quarter to take an early lead. Huete hit on his first trey of the night to close the scoring spurt out, drawing an eruption of cheers from the North Hall student section and putting the home team up 12-5.
But Cherokee Bluff’s Griffin Neville responded with a 3-point play on the very next possession, kicking off a Bears scoring spree that tied the game at 12 eight minutes in when Bosko Norman knocked in a layup.
The second frame was similarly back-and-forth, with Huete making the biggest impact when he was knocked down while shooting a corner 3 that swished through the hoop despite the blatant foul. Huete made the free throw to complete the 4-point play and give the momentum back to North Hall.
His running floater with less than 20 seconds remaining before halftime put the Trojans up 29-28 at halftime.
North Hall pushed that lead to 4 points following a third quarter that once again featured a couple exchanges of runs between teams. But in the fourth, the Trojans finally started to put the game away.
Huete hit on his final 3 of the game 20 seconds into the frame to make it a 7-point lead, and North Hall pushed it to 7 points thanks to a Clark Howell layup and a putback from Luke Gunter.
Cherokee Bluff pushed it all the way back to a 4-point deficit with a couple key turnovers, but struggles at the free throw line prevented the Bears from getting to within a possession of the lead for the remainder of the contest.
North Hall clamped down completely defensively down the stretch, and hit on 4 of 6 free throw attempts in the final two minutes of the game to claim the win.
“Our kids are tough physically,” Sanders said. “Our kids are tough mentally. We’ve got a very experienced group.”
NORTH HALL GIRLS 60, CHEROKEE BLUFF 42: Seniors Grace Hollifield and Lauren Swanson dominated the game for North Hall on senior night, scoring 20 and 17 points, respectively, and leading the Lady Trojans to the win to close out the regular season.
Hollifield poured in 8 in the opening quarter to help North Hall build a 15-8 lead eight minutes into the game. The Lady Bears briefly reclaimed the lead early in the second frame when Alexis Mize hit on corner 3s on back-to-back possessions, but North Hall scored the next 7 consecutive points and would never trail again for the remainder of the game.
The Lady Trojans held Cherokee Bluff to just 5 points in the third quarter, and Hollifield finished the frame off with a personal 8-0 run that put the Lady Bears away for good.