Monday March 18th, 2019 11:59PM

Basketball: North Hall girls, East Hall boys open 7-3A with key wins

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter
  Contact Editor

GAINESVILLE — The North Hall girls and East Hall boys opened Region 7-3A play Tuesday night with crucial wins at the North Hall gym.

The Lady Trojans staged an impressive second half rally to beat the Lady Vikings 52-45 while the East Hall boys took a 57-49 win in overtime over the Trojans.

In the girls game, when junior Grace Hollifield went down with an apparent ankle injury late in the first quarter, the North Hall girls took a collective gasp.
Hollifield has battled a history of ankle problems and in the early going was the catalyst for a quick Lady Trojans start against the Lady Vikings scoring 7 of their first 9 points.
“The girls are so close and none of us wanted to see her have to maybe go through something like that again,” North Hall coach Kristi House said. "We were all just kind of shocked for a moment."
Fortunately all’s well that ends well, as they say. Hollifield would return in the fourth quarter but not before her teammates had shaken off her injury and rallied in the second half.
North Hall jumped out to a quick 7-2 lead and eventually pushed it 18-8 at one point in the first quarter just after Hollifield’s injury. The Lady Trojans scored 13 points off 10 East Hall turnovers in the period.
But East Hall was nearly flawless in the second quarter forcing 7 North Hall turnovers while committing just one, which came in the final seconds of the half. The Lady Vikings, sparked by a Jenny Lopez 3-pointer near the end of the first quarter, took advantage and exploded for a 19-5 run to grab a 27-23 lead with just over a minute left in the half. Lopez hit 3 of the Lady Vikings’ 5 treys in the spurt, which was capped by a Ivey Shadburn 3-pointer.
“I think the girls were a little shell shocked when Grace went down,” House said. “But we told (Maci) Gillespie to be more assertive and I thought we just played much better defense in the second half.”
North Hall, sparked by Gillespie, erased a 32-27 East Hall early in the third quarter with a 10-2 run, capped by 3-pointers from Rylee McCall and Ansley Smallwood to take a 37-34 advantage. The Lady Trojans never trailed again.
East Hall did not go away, however. A three-point play by Ansleigh Ferguson midway through the fourth quarter pushed North Hall’s lead to 48-37. The Lady Vikings staged an 8-0 run with Maggie Griffin and Shadburn draining 3-pointers to pull within 48-45 with 1:58 left.
But the Lady Trojans sealed the game hitting 4 of 6 free throws in the final 1:18.
Gillepsie finished with 13 points and 4 assists to lead North Hall (3-2, 1-0 Region 7-3A). McCall had 10 points and Ferguson added 9 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 blocks for the Lady Trojans.
East Hall (1-6, 0-1) was led by Griffin with 11 points. Lopez scored 9 points, all on 3-pointers, and Ashante Peoples added 8 points and 7 rebounds for the Lady Vikings.
East Hall outscored the Trojans 10-2 in overtime to take a tough region-opening win on the road.
“This is always a tough place to play,” East Hall coach Seth Thompson said. “We’re extremely pleased to be able to get out of here with a win.”
Senior Kylan Curry paced the Vikings (4-3, 1-0 Region 7-3A) with 17 points on a variety of shots. But it was seldom-deployed junior Lavoy Hill who came off the bench to score 9 points, including six in the overtime period to go with 3 rebounds, that was the catalyst, especially after Javion Rucker fouled out with the Vikings clinging to a slim 51-49 lead.
“Lavoy doesn’t get a lot of minutes but he came in and did a great job for us and gave us some big minutes,” Thompson said. “Extremely proud of his effort.”
Rucker finished with just 8 points but also pulled down 10 boards and blocked 6 shots.
Neither team led by more than seven -- East Hall at 24-17 midway through the second quarter -- as both teams traded baskets for much of the contest. North Hall’s biggest lead came at 33-30 early in the third quarter.
The Vikings appeared to have taken control using a 9-2 run to grab a 39-35 lead by the end of the third quarter. North Hall answered with a 7-2 spurt to open the fourth to take a 42-41 lead and a Rucker basket with exactly 1:00 left tied the game at 47 to eventually send it to overtime.
North Hall (2-3, 0-1) never led in the overtime, though Daniel Jackson’s basket tied it at 49 with 3:01 left. East Hall scored the final eight points as the Trojans missed three shots and turned it over twice in the final minute.
Drew Faulkner paced North Hall with 15 points. Jackson finished with 10 points for the Trojans.
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