Posted: Friday, December 21st 2012 at 10:53pm
Lanierland: Smith's career night leads Trojans into finals
By Jeff Hart Staff
Gainesville's Jikeese Ruff, left, and North Hall's Taylor Ryder battle for possession during the two teams' Lanierland semifinal on Friday at North Hall.
MURRAYVILLE -- North Hall coach Benjie Wood told Ethan Smith he expected him to score 30 points Friday night in the Lanierland semifinals against rival Gainesville.
The senior guard obliged with a career-best 39, including sinking four free throws in the final 13.8 seconds to lift the Trojans to a thrilling 72-70 win in overtime at the North Hall gym.
Smith practically piggy-backed the Trojans in the second half, pouring in 34 points after halftime, including nine of the Trojans’ 12 points in overtime.
“Down the stretch he’s our guy. He’s a great clutch player,” Wood said. “It was a great game between two good teams. We were lucky to come out with a win.”
Smith said he just tried to answer the challenge, especially after North Hall went into halftime trailing 19-18.
“Coach told all of us at halftime that we needed to quit playing scared and step up and play,” Smith said. “That’s what I tried to do. The guys got me the ball and I just tried to make shots.”
Smith hit shots from virtually every spot in the gym.
"I don't know if I was in the zone but I felt confident every time I shot it. Fortunately they just kept going in," Smith said.
North Hall (7-1) will take on Johnson for the title Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at North Hall. The Trojans are looking for their first title since 2009 while the Knights (10-1) have not won the annual event since 1988.
“Johnson is playing very well in all phases right now and we will have our hands full,” Wood said. “It should be a great game between two good teams. I hope.”
North Hall looked to have the game in hand late in the fourth quarter against Gainesville using a 15-6 run to build a 55-48 lead with 2:58 left in regulation. But the Elephants, behind Shaquan Cantrell, would not go quietly.
Cantrell had 18 of his team-high 24 in the second half and overtime, including draining a pair of free throws with 16 seconds left in regulation to send the game into overtime. The senior scored seven of the Elephants final 10 points in the final 1:38 of the fourth quarter.
In overtime, Adam Kelly gave the Trojans a 62-60 lead but Gainesville’s Luke Moore hit a long 3-pointer to grab a one-point lead. Smith and Cantrell would trade two-point baskets and then 3-pointers for a 68-68 tie with 25 seconds left.
Smith would hit two free throws with 13.8 seconds left and Cantrell would tie the game at 70 on a driving layup with five seconds left. But Gainesville’s Deshaun Watson was called for a foul with 2.9 seconds left and Smith would hit both free throws.
Cantrell just missed a floating 3-pointer at the buzzer to win it for Gainesville.
In the first half, North Hall opened strong with a 10-2 run in the first three minutes but Gainesville finally got going closing the first quarter with a 9-2 run to trail 12-9.
The Red Elephants would grab their first lead in the second quarter on a driving basket by Cantrell for a 17-16 lead. They would take a 19-18 lead into halftime.
The Elephants stayed hot to start the third quarter taking their biggest lead of the game, 35-30, on a Chase England basket with 1:07 left in the third quarter. But Smith, who had 13 points in the period, pulled the Trojans within 40-38 with a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Avery Cagle had 13 points and Kelly finished with 12 points for North Hall.
Moore finished with 13 points and Watson had 11 for Gainesville (1-6).
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