Key players getting banged up were a big story in both the boys and girls games of Tuesday night’s Region 8-4A basketball doubleheader between North Hall and East Hall.
In the boys game, a run by the visiting Vikings after Trojans starter Luke Sanders went down late in the first half helped tighten things up a bit heading into halftime.
But the junior point guard returned in the second half and helped North Hall calm down, and a big final 16 minutes from Sam Gailey helped North Hall pull away for a 81-59 victory.
The East Hall girls weren’t as fortunate.
Already down to seven players due to five injured players, including starters Kaylana Curry and Callie Dale, the Vikings endured another blow when leading rebounder Tiyra Watkins went down with a knee injury early in the second quarter.
And the host Trojans took full advantage, as their depth led a charge over the remainder of the half that turned just a seven-point lead into a 28-point bulge by halftime en route to an 87-30 victory.
The North Hall boys (3-3, 1-1 Region 8-4A) built as much as a 33-15 lead with 3:41 left in the first half behind seven points from Cole Hulsey and six each from Sanders and Korbyn Sosebee before Sanders limped off the court.
East Hall (0-6, 0-2) took advantage with Levi Holtzclaw leading a 13-2 run seven of his team-high 14 points on the evening, including a three-point play with 27 seconds left to close the gap to just seven points before J.T. Chester scored on a layup with 11 seconds left to send the Trojans into intermission with just a 37-28 lead.
However, Sanders returned in the second half, and while he added just five points the rest of the way, his floor presence helped his North Hall teammates gather themselves.
“(East Hall) made it scarier than I wanted it to be, especially going into the half,” North Hall boys coach Miles Kendall said. “That second quarter, they really took it to us, and shots that typically are very easy for us, they made very difficult. They were gaining confidence.
“(Sanders) is definitely our leader, our coach on the court, our steadying force for us. We’ve got a couple of backups we trust in those roles because Luke can’t play a full game with everything we’re asking him to do. But he’s just improved as a player, and he’s so much of an offensive and defensive threat, that if you lose a guy like that, there’s going to be a little bit of a letdown. But it wasn’t too bad. We were able to withstand it.”
Sanders’ presence definitely gave the Trojans confidence, which manifested itself in other sources stepping up early in the second half.
After Holtzclaw pulled East Hall back to within eight by hitting 1 of 2 free throws just 23 seconds into the third quarter, Chester answered with a stickback, Sosebee knocked down a 3-pointer and Matthew Ray added a layup to push the Trojans lead back into double digits at 44-29 with 5:38 left in the period.
And Gailey made sure it would stay that way by connecting on all of his team-best 12 points in the second half.
Sanders, Hulsey and Chester each added 11 points, with Sanders also pulling down four rebounds, dishing out a game-high four assists and chipping in two steals, while Hulsey led the Trojans with seven rebounds.
Chasen Jones joined Holtzclaw in double figures with 13 points, while Jamarcus Harrison added nine points and nine boards. Holtzclaw also finished with six rebounds and three assists.
Despite starting the night short-handed, the East Hall girls (1-5, 0-2) battled back from an early 10-0 deficit to outscore North Hall 16-5 over the next five and a half minutes to actually take a 16-15 lead after a pair of Maleah Harrison free throws with 33.2 seconds left before Kari Peach’s steal and layup at the 23 second mark put the No. 9 Lady Trojans (5-1, 1-1) back in front by the quarter’s end.
That lead was still a relatively small 23-16 when Watkins fell to the floor in pain going after a loose ball with 5:47 left in the first half, and had to be helped from the court.
It was too much for an already depleted Vikings squad to overcome, as the Trojans overwhelmed them by outscoring them 31-4 in the second quarter and 24-3 in the third to break the game wide open.
While Athena Vachtsevanos led the offense with four of his game-high 19 points during the charge, the defense also clamped down by forcing East Hall into 12 turnovers in the second quarter alone, with Kristina Peach leading the way.
“It’s tough for a team like that already down a couple kids to see one of your starters and best players go down, “ North Hall girls coach Eric Herrick said. “It kind of took the energy out of them, but we played hard. We’re just trying to get better every day. … Everybody went in for us and played hard.”
Indeed, all 15 players on the Trojans’ roster not only played in the game, but all 15 broke into the scoring column, with Braelyn McCall being the only other North Hall player to join Vachtsevanos in double figures with 10 points.
Kristina Peach also had seven points and two assists to go with her five steals, Genesis Satterfield also finished with seven, while Rylee Thompson contributed five points and a game-high seven rebounds.
Anaya Smith led East Hall with 11 points, while Harrison contributed 10 points and three assists.