As Anna McKendree pushed through the final minutes of the West Hall High girls basketball team’s game at Chestatee on Friday night, two thoughts kept her going.
The first was of her teammates, whose energy and positivity gave her a lift time and time again throughout the heated Region 7-4A battle. The other motivator was Lady Spartans’ coach Bryan Richerson, in line for his 100th career win.
McKendree didn’t let either party down.
The senior guard recorded a game-high 34 points and eight assists to lead West Hall to a wild, 65-62 overtime victory in Gainesville. McKendree — who played all but the final 1.8 seconds of the game — scored 14 points in the fourth quarter, during which there were 11 lead changes.
“I did know it would be my coach’s 100th win, so I wanted to win it for him,” she said. “And even though we were sloppy at times, the energy from my teammates helped me get through it. I knew they were always behind me, 100 percent.”
The Lady Spartans (11-7, 2-1 region) needed every bit of McKendree’s production to withstand the Lady War Eagles’ repeated rallies.
Chestatee senior guard Lindsey Caudell finished with a team-high 24 points, and classmate Peri Satterfield scored 15 of her 17 points in the second half and overtime. West Hall also had to overcome the self-inflicted wounds of foul trouble and a 13-for-30 mark at the free-throw line.
“Give Chestatee a lot of credit,” Richerson said. “They came out and matched us and made some big plays. But Anna made some big plays, as well. When you’ve got her, you always feel good about your chances.”
The Lady War Eagles (8-11, 1-3) fell into an early 11-4 hole before cutting their deficit to just three points at halftime. Junior forward Callyssa Tyner (nine boards) got an offensive rebound and layup to give Chestatee its first lead of the game at 30-29 with 1:25 left in the third quarter, setting off a frantic back-and-forth between the region rivals.
Before two minutes had passed in the final period of regulation, West Hall guards Aashyah White and Reagan Horton fouled out and McKendree picked up her fourth infraction.
“We were in foul trouble pretty much the whole game, and that really messed up our rotation,” said Richerson, who deployed just seven of the nine players listed on his team’s roster.
The fifth-year coach praised McKendree for managing to play sound defense for such a long, crucial stretch while saddled with four fouls.
He was even more pleased by what she did with the basketball.
McKendree had a huge fourth quarter that included a 3-pointer to break a tie with less than three minutes remaining. But Caudell, who had 12 fourth-quarter points of her own, was fouled on a game-tying layup with 5.5 seconds left and had a chance to give the Lady War Eagles a late edge.
She missed the free throw, though, and McKendree’s potential game-winning heave ricocheted off the backboard to send the game to overtime at 54-all.
McKendree opened overtime with a 3-pointer, and Chestatee trailed for the remainder of the game despite six more points from Caudell. Her final three came from the charity stripe after McKendree fouled out with less than two seconds to play.
“When we weren’t doing well in one aspect, we picked it up in another,” McKendree said. “We calmed down toward the end of the game and got it done, and I thought we played pretty good defense.”
Lady Spartans sophomore forward Cadie Shirley, who hit one bucket in all four quarters and the overtime period, tallied 11 points and was the only other player to crack double figures.
Sophomore guard Maggie McNair scored all nine of her points in the first half for the Lady War Eagles, who host East Hall at 4 p.m. Saturday.
West Hall, meanwhile, returns home to face Johnson at 5 p.m. Saturday in Oakwood. Both teams resume region play next week, and the Lady Spartans hope a strong stretch run can put them in position to claim their third straight region title.
Richardson said his team requires improvement to make that a reality, even with McKendree leading the way.
“I’m proud of them for coming on the road and finding a way to win in overtime,” Richerson said. “It’s always tough to play Chestatee; they always get up for us, and we always get up for them. But we know we’ve still got some work to do for the region tournament if we want to be champions again.”
CHESTATEE BOYS 62, WEST HALL 58: Four War Eagles notched double-digit points as the program won its first region game since the 2014-15 season.
But second-year Chestatee coach Kevin Strickland took as much pride in something else.
“Beating a Hall County team is as important as anything,” he said. “These kids have to go to church with each other, go to the mall, go to Chick-fil-A. Now they can walk around with their heads up. … Having put this program back on the map in Hall County is as important as it being a region win.”
The War Eagles (5-14, 1-3) trailed by six in the third quarter before ripping off a 15-3 run to reclaim control. West Hall (7-10, 0-3), which was paced by sophomore guard Noah Edmondson’s 22 points, kept it a one-score game for most of the fourth quarter.
Sophomore guard Brenton Nicholson sank the pair of clinching free throws with 16 seconds left for Chestatee, which received 15 points from senior forward Nick Lyles and 14 more from junior guard Cameron Gwyn.
War Eagle senior guards Cooper Wilson and Donovan Hernandez scored 11 and 10 points, respectively. Chestatee hosts East Hall at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.
Guards Tae Reid and Datavian Buffington each totaled nine points for the Spartans, who face Johnson at 6:30 p.m. Saturday in Oakwood.