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Freshman Hall comes of age

MOUNT ULLA — The programs at the Sam Moir Christmas Classic will list West Rowan’s Khaila Hall as a freshman, but the way coach Todd McNeely sees it, Hall’s freshman days ended during Monday night’s 55-44 win against Lake Norman.
“I told her I’d let her know when she wasn’t a freshman anymore, and I told her that tonight,” McNeely said. “She played big.”
Coming off a quiet three-point effort against Mooresville on Friday, Hall exploded for 22 points. Her season high had been 13.
Hall didn’t score at all in the first quarter, but in a 20-minute span from the beginning of the second quarter until late in the game, she accounted for 22 of West’s 34 points.
Blocked shots by Shay Steele, a pair of 3s by Alison Sobataka and transition buckets by Nycieko Dixon got the Falcons (6-0) off to a quick start, but their 10-2 lead swindled to 16-10 by the end of the first quarter, and the visiting Wildcats (4-2), who are excellent passers and good shooters, outplayed West in a second quarter that included a technical foul on Steele. The 6-foot-2 senior was not pleased with repeated whistles for walking violations, and that technical gave her three fouls.
Hall scored all of West’s seven points in the second quarter, and the Falcons made it to the locker room with a 23-21 lead.Once they got there, they were able to regroup.
“Nycieko and Quanice Miller were sick tonight, and Shay was frustrated with the officiating,” McNeely said. “But they came out in the second half, adjusted to what was being called, played through it, and played smart. I thought they showed a lot of maturity.”
Lake Norman tied the game early in the second half, but the Falcons responded with a decisive 11-1 run. Hall made two shots, Steele scored on a drive, Dixon got a three-point off a Hall steal, and then Hall scored again for a 34-24 lead.
That was the pivotal stretch in the game. Lake Norman failed to get anything out of a technical foul on McNeely and watched the Falcons pull away.
“We left a lot of points on the floor there with the missed technical free throws and by missing some easy looks inside,” Lake Norman coach Rich Tinucci said. “It’s always a tough game here in this gym, and we just missed too many easy opportunities to beat such a talented team.”
Hall had a huge, nine-point fourth quarter to hold off the Wildcats, and West led by as many as 15 points.
Hall’s most spectacular bucket came with 3:17 left in the game. She scored on a spinning drive for a 49-36 lead that had fans shaking heads in disbelief.
Despite her hard times in the second quarter, Steele produced 10 points, 10 blocks and six rebounds and never picked up that fourth foul that might have changed the game. Dixon scored 14. Sobataka had eight.
McNeely praised improved team chemistry and bench attitudes, as West made it six straight victories to start the season for the first time since 2003.
“We had a lot of people under the weather and feeling bad, but we’re lucky that we don’t have anyone with a full-fledged case of the flu,” McNeely said. “We were able to get into our man-to-man defense and do a good enough job to stay in it.”
Maddie Riley went 8-for-9 from the free-throw line and scored 20 points for the Wildats. The Wildcats were missing Argia Gibson, one of their top players.
West plays against Concord at home on Wednesday.

LAKE NORMAN (44) — Riley 20, N. Marshall 5, S. Gallagher 4, Smith 4, Moss 3, Haberl 2, Vansant 2, Yates 2, Stamm 2, Woods, K. Gallagher, Wyman, Valocchi .
WEST ROWAN(55) — Hall 22, Dixon 14, Steele 10, Sobotaka 8, S. Miller 1, Q. Miller, James.

Lake Norman 10 11 9 14 — 44
West Rowan 16 7 14 18 — 55

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