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North Hall girls keep the pressure on, pull away for region basketball win over Fannin County
Lady Trojans' full-court press frustrates Rebels in 49-34 victory at home
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North Hall's Ansley Smallwood searches for an open teammate while East Hall's Maggie Griffin blocks at North Hall High School on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. - photo by Austin Steele

Even on nights when the shots aren’t falling, North Hall’s girls basketball team knows it can always rely on its defense to get the job done. 

And after the Lady Trojans found themselves in a second-quarter scoring slump Friday night, coach Kristi House reassured her players at halftime that maintaining the pressure on visiting Fannin County would eventually reap the rewards.

Sure enough, those results came. 

North Hall’s relentless full-court press created 18 turnovers — including eight in the final period — and the Lady Trojans used a huge scoring run in the final minutes to pull away with a 49-34 win and their third-straight victory in Gainesville. 

“We weren’t really clicking offensively,” House said of the first half. “We thought if we could put pressure on them the entire game, we would be able to turn them over quite a bit in the end,” House said. 

After only managing a single field goal in the second period, the Lady Trojans (4-2, 2-0 Region 7-3A) outscored the Lady Rebels (1-7, 0-2) 27-10 in the final 16 minutes. Lead scorer Grace Hollifield (15 points, two steals) snagged a steal seconds into the fourth period, and Maci Gillespie eventually converted the team’s takeaway into a layup inside the paint. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Ansley Smallwood and Lauren Swanson to follow aided a 13-0 scoring run for the hosts. Minutes later, the Lady Trojans recorded two more takeaways on defense, and a Caroline Cape steal and finish capped the surge for a 20-point North Hall lead at 49-29.

“I was like finally, because we’ve been so stagnant and slow in the first half,” House said with a smile. “We keep telling them just play defense, and it’ll turn into offense. They feed off that, they like playing that way. So I was just glad to see it worked out.”

Swanson was the only other player to finish to score in double-digits with 10 points off the bench while making all four of her free-throw attempts in two trips to the stripe. Maci Gillespie finished with a team-high four assists and six points, while freshman Rylee McCall had seven points and Ansleigh Ferguson (six rebounds) chipped in six points with four blocks. 

Morgan Holt was the only Fannin County starter to score in double figures with 10 points as the Lady Rebels dropped their fourth-straight game. 

Gillespie assisted three North Hall baskets that included a kickout pass to Grace Hollifield, who knocked down a 3 to give the Lady Trojans a 7-0 lead early. That success never carried over in the next frame, with North Hall only mustering a single field goal in the second period, while Fannin County’s Abby Ledford (nine points) and Holt tag-teamed a Lady Rebels rally. The pair combined to score all 10 of Fannin’s second-quarter points to twice cut the margin to two inside the final two-minutes of the first half. 

Back-to-back layups from Ledford and Holt, respectively, made it a one-possession game, though North Hall would still cling to a 24-22 lead at the break. 

In the third period, a 3-pointer by Maleah Stepp (eight points) briefly gave Fannin County its only lead at 29-27. But on the ensuing possession, the second of Hollifield’s three treys in the contest put North Hall back out front for good at 30-29. 

Both North Hall teams break from region play for a matchup with 7A Forsyth Central at 3 p.m. today in Cumming. 

NORTH HALL BOYS 47, FANNIN COUNTY 40: Despite a 50 percent (19 of 38) mark from the free-throw line and an inconsistent shooting night from the floor, the Trojans (3-3, 1-1 Region 7-3A) still held on for their first region win of the young season Friday.

Trailing 33-27 entering the final period, Fannin County’s Brady Martin (eight points) notched a layup, and seconds later, Jalen Ingram drew contact inside before sinking 1 of 2 free-throw attempts to make it a three-point game with 7:23 left. 

The hosts answered seconds later with a Luke Volle layup in traffic, and Luke Gunter later drove for back-to-back baskets inside the paint for well-timed scores that aided North Hall’s final trips to the line. The Trojans were 7 of 14 from the stripe to close out the game. 

The Trojans had no one reach double figures as Matthew Gunter led with eight points, followed by Volle and Josh Cook with seven. Drew Faulkner was another to produce with six points. 

Kaeden Twiggs scored a game-high 10 points for Fannin County (1-5, 0-2).

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