KENNESAW - It's been the story of Gainesville's season, and especially so in the playoffs: razor-thin margins for error, a different hero seemingly every night, and most importantly, an awful lot of wins.
Unlike previous years, this season high school basketball teams will have to reach the state championship game to make the trek to Macon.
Offensively, it wasn't exactly vintage Gainesville basketball. Three-pointers missed their mark, floaters in the lane rimmed out, and the half-court game never appeared to be in sync.
The temperatures outside might suggest otherwise, but on the high school sports calendar, spring is here.
In high school basketball, a stellar regular season doesn't mean much if it's not backed up by strong play at the year's end. By the same token, a disappointing two-plus months can be all but wiped off the books by just a couple of wins when region tournaments roll around.
With the Hall County Championships for both wrestling and soccer still more than a week away, high school basketball will take center stage for the next seven days.
It wasn't always picture-perfect basketball, but for a Gainesville team still trying to find its footing after a slow start, it was a win. And it's hard to find faults in a win, especially when it comes over a traditional rival.
2012 was a banner year for Gainesville High School athletics. The golf teams swept the state titles in May, both soccer teams and the baseball team advanced to at least the state semifinals, and just before the calendar turned over, the Red Elephants brought home the first football state championship in school history.
Fresh off the Class AA state championship win, Jefferson football coach T. McFerrin has decided to call it a career.
After a short break for Christmas, area basketball teams will return to the court later this week as a host of holiday tournaments dot the schedule.
If there was any doubt about how much the Lanierland Tournament means to basketball teams in Hall County, one needed only see the faces of the winners Saturday night to know that it still means - even in its 53rd year - a lot.
To his friends, family, coaches and teammates, Adam Smith was a special young man. That's why they've planned a special tribute to celebrate his memory when the Buford boys basketball team plays its home opener Friday against Banks County.
One team is back in the state championship game for the first time in 35 years. One team frequently plays deep into the playoffs but has yet to bring home the elusive title. And one team is in the Georgia Dome so often it has the feel of a second home.
For Bruce Miller, the joy derived from Friday night's semifinal win over Whitewater was subdued and short-lived. For the veteran Gainesville coach, a bigger goal lies ahead.
For just the second time since 1982, two Hall County teams have reached the state semifinals in the same season.