CALHOUN, Ga. - Sometimes adversity brings out the best in a team. Sometimes that adversity is just too much to overcome.
The latter proved true for the Sonoraville High School girls' basketball team Friday night in a 62-53 GHSA Class AAA loss against North Hall. The Lady Phoenix, after rallying from a 15-point deficit, saw their hopes crushed when star center Carrie Cheeks injured her ankle with the team down just three.
Overmatched and in foul trouble, Region 5 champion Sonoraville could never catch the visitors.
"The kids fought hard," Sonoraville coach Stephanie Caudell said after her team's season ended at 21-7. "We dug ourselves a hole in the first half with some careless turnovers, and I told them if we cut that lead in half by the end of the third quarter we would be all right, and they did even better than that.
"When Carrie went down, that was tough. Even for me it was tough to get my bearings for a minute, so I know it was tough on the kids. You have to ask why at that particular time because she's been so healthy. We continued to fight, but they hit some shots down the stretch and we couldn't get over the hump."
North Hall (19-9), the Region 7 No. 4 seed after being the league's second-best team during the regular season to top-ranked Buford, trailed 19-14 two minutes into the second period but ended the half on a 23-6 run. Post Sydney Cleveland scored seven points, and a suddenly lethal press forced nine second-period Sonoraville turnovers.
A Kensi Gillespie 3-pointer to open the second half gave the Lady Trojans a 40-25 lead, but Cheeks and Kristi Vaughn started working inside and the lead was just 45-40 with 55 seconds left in the period when disaster struck. Cheeks, after scoring on the team's next possession on a short bank shot, crumpled to the floor in agony, her season and career suddenly over.
The Lady Phoenix, clearly rattled by the injury, fell behind by six on a Cleveland layup and putback and never got any closer.
"I feel really bad for them," North Hall coach Kristi House said. "We went through the same thing two years ago with a player who tore her ACL during a game, so I know how they feel. I told her after the game we were praying for her and wished her a full recovery because she's a great player.
"It was tough tonight. This is a great basketball environment with a great crowd, and it was a challenge for our kids. We have not played well since the snow break. I'm just proud of our kids that they kept believing and playing hard."
Vaughn led Sonoraville with 18 points, with Cheeks getting 17 and 14 rebounds. Cleveland had 17 points and 13 rebounds and Gillespie scored 16 points for North Hall, which advances to Monday's second round.
Contact Lindsey Young at email@example.com or at 423-757-6296.