The North Hall boys basketball team seemed down and out at halftime of Tuesday evening’s road matchup against Cherokee Bluff. Staring down an 11-point deficit, Trojans coach Tyler Sanders knew it was time for an adjustment.
“We were giving up too many points in the paint,” he said. “We had to get back to being us.”
When it mattered most, the North Hall players responded, holding the Bears to just 16 points in the second half — and only 4 in the fourth quarter — to claim a dramatic 57-55 win.
The Trojans entered the final frame trailing by 8, but scored the first 9 points of the period to reclaim the lead for the first time since the opening quarter. A Bosko Norman layup briefly put Cherokee Bluff back on top, but North Hall finished things out going 5 for 6 from the free throw line in the final two minutes to battle back into a 2-point lead with 10 seconds left to play.
North Hall stymied all of the Bears attempts to break into the paint in the final seconds, and Cade Simmons’ desperate heave at the buzzer was just a little off the mark, sealing the Trojans’ comeback win.
“The kids fought,” Sanders said. “I’m proud of our kids. It’s been a long couple of weeks, battling back from some flus and a few small injuries, but I’m super proud of these kids. I just can’t brag on them enough.”
Clark Howell scored 23 to lead all North Hall scorers, 9 coming in the final quarter. But early in the game, it appeared he and his Trojan teammates’ efforts would all be in vain.
Cherokee Bluff burst out of the gate to score the first 7 points of the contest in a quick flurry, and a quick trio of corner 3s from North Hall’s Cole Ellis was all that kept the Bears from completely running away with things from the get-go.
The Bears led by a point eight minutes in, but blew the game open in the second quarter. Cherokee Bluff used two individual runs of 7-0 and 8-0 to jump into the lead, getting to the hoop for layup after layup with seeming ease.
A traditional 3-point play from Dre Raven right at the end of the second quarter pushed the Bears lead to 39-28 at the break.
Cherokee Bluff senior Griffin Neville hit 1,000 career points with a second-quarter free throw.
But the second half was an entirely different story.
This time it was North Hall who came out with energy, getting a quick 4 points from Howell and starting the half off with an 8-2 run that forced Cherokee Bluff into taking an early timeout.
A corner 3 from Ty Smith with about a minute left in the third that cut the lead to 8 ignited the Trojans bench, and North Hall completely took over the game from there.
Howell scored 6 point over a five-minute period to start the fourth quarter during which no Bears player could find his way to the hoop.
With the score close, the Trojans fought their way to the free throw lines more frequently than the Bears, and the points from the charity stripe ended up being the difference in North Hall closing out the win.
NORTH HALL GIRLS 48, CHEROKEE BLUFF 40: The Lady Trojans were without starting point guard Maci Gillespie, who missed Tuesday’s game with an illness, but sophomore Rylee McCall scored 17 points in relief to help North Hall to the road region win.
The teams were roughly evenly matched over the opening two quarters, with better 3-point shooting being the main factor in the Lady Trojans taking a 24-20 lead at the halftime break.
But North Hall turned things up a notch in the second half, pouring in 19 in the third quarter behind a couple of timely 3s from Caroline Cape and taking a 43-30 lead into the final frame.
A late surge from Cherokee Bluff closed the gap a bit in the fourth quarter, but the deficit proved to large to overcome, and the Lady Trojans managed to coast to the region victory.