As North Hall forward Grace Hollifield stepped up to the free throw line with six seconds remaining in Monday’s Region 7-3A championship game against Greater Atlanta Christian, she took a quick moment to call on a higher power.
“Honestly, I was praying,” she said. “I was like, ‘God, please just help me make these free throws.’”
Trailing by a point, Hollifield and the rest of the Lady Trojans were hoping for a miracle. And they got one.
Hollifield drained both shots from the stripe to go up by a point, and fellow senior Lauren Swanson swatted away the Lady Spartans’ last gasp effort to finish off North Hall’s dramatic, 49-48 win and claim the region title.
With the win, The Lady Trojans will take on Pace Academy at home this weekend in the first round of the Class 3A playoffs.
It was a big night for all of North Hall’s seniors —Hollifield, Swanson, Maci Gillespie and Ansley Smallwood — who combined to score 42 of the team’s 49 points in the championship game.
“That senior class is special,” Lady Trojans coach Kristi House said after the game. “They mean a lot to me personally. They mean a lot to the North Hall community. I’m so happy for them to be able to have this today.”
North Hall got off to a slow start in the contest, as Greater Atlanta Christian poured in 12 straight points through the middle of the first quarter to go up big early, but the Lady Trojans kicked things into another gear from there.
Swanson hit on a couple of 3s, and the Lady Trojans scored the last 5 points of the first quarter and the first 11 of the second to jump out in front. Greater Atlanta Christian stemmed the tide a bit with 3s from Ava Irvin and Kaleigh Addie, but a Gillespie layup with just four seconds left before halftime put the Lady Trojans up by 2 points going into the intermission.
They truly found their stride in the third.
After a defensive exchange of missed and blocked shots from both sides to start out the second half, Hollifield connected on a 3 from the corner, and Gillespie scored on a pair of layups and dished another two assists to Swanson to finish the frame out on an 11-3 run.
Each ensuing shot brought louder and louder cheers from the North Hall spectators, as they watched the Lady Trojans storm out to a 12-point lead through three quarters, with only eight minutes standing between them and the region title.
Greater Atlanta Christian fought all the way back in the fourth, holding North Hall to just 2 points in the first four minutes of the final frame. Gillespie got things back on a track though with a behind-the-back dribble and floater that got the momentum momentarily back in the Lady Trojans favor.
The Lady Spartans took their first lead since the second quarter off a free throw with 16 seconds left in the game, but Hollifield was fouled on the ensuing North Hall possession, sending her to the line for the game winning shots.