Coming off of three straight Lanierland titles, the Flowery Branch girls basketball team knows how to win at the Hall County winter tournament. The Lady Falcons proved that Thursday night in their 55-43 win over Cherokee Bluff in their opening-round game.
The Lady Falcons (10-3) were led by Ashley Woodroffe’s 21 points. Freshman Timber Gaither paced Cherokee Bluff (7-7), pouring in 14 over the course of the contest.
The Lady Bears started strong on a pair of 3s from Gaither and Maddie Thomas to take an early lead, but it was all Flowery Branch from there.
Wysocki scored the first two baskets for the Lady Falcons and then assisted on the next two makes by Ashley Woodroffe. Ashley Scott hit on a wide open trey following a dish out from Ashlee Locke, and a Woodroffe make as time expired in the first quarter gave Flowery Branch a 14-8 lead.
The Lady Falcons stayed steady offensively in the second frame, but their defense stepped up in a big way.
Flowery Branch scored another 14 points in the period while holding the Lady Bears to just two — a pair of Gaither free throws.
The dominant effort gave the Lady Falcons a 28-10 lead at halftime, which proved too big a hole for Cherokee Bluff to climb out of.
Woodroffe exploded for 12 third-quarter points as the Lady Falcons pushed their lead ever higher, leading by 22 entering the final quarter.
And while Cherokee Bluff outplayed Flowery Branch over the final eight minutes, outscoring the Lady Falcons 17-9, it was too little too late from the first-year program, as the No. 1 seed cruised to its first-round win.
GAINESVILLE GIRLS 70, EAST HALL 62: Tija Blackwell eclipsed 1,000-career points while racking up a double-double performance of 30 points and 14 boards as the seventh-seeded Gainesville girls topped East Hall in the first round of the Lanierland at Chestatee High.
Blackwell, who entered this year’s Lanierland tourney nine points shy of 1,000, reached the milestone during the second period, intercepting a ball on defense and finishing the takeaway with a layup for a 16-15 Gainesville lead with 6:26 left in the first half. The senior guard also dished four assists and had a pair steals in the win.
Fellow senior Tia Shelton scored 20 of her 22 points -- including four 3s -- in the second half to boost the Lady Red Elephants (7-4), who move on to play three-seed North Hall in the semifinals at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 28, at West Hall.
Gainesville slowly built a 15-point lead inside the final four minutes. East Hall (6-9) managed to trim the deficit to six twice before the visitors pulled away. Ivey Shadburn led the Lady Vikings with 16 points, followed by Maggie Griffin with 15 and freshman Alexis Burce with 10.
NORTH HALL GIRLS 60, LAKEVIEW ACADEMY 59: Everything that typically makes for an exciting finish at Lanierland transpired on-court between the girls basketball teams of North Hall and Lakeview Academy Thursday at Chestatee High.
In a non-stop thrill ride that came down to the final possession, it was the No. 3 seeded Lady Trojans (10-3) who squeaked by with a win against Lakeview Academy in the opening round.
After five lead changes inside the final three minutes, a pair of free throws by Jackie Allen gave Lakeview Academy (9-4) the initial one-point edge with 10.2 seconds left. Racing against the clock, point guard Maci Gillespie collected in in-bounds pass on the ensuing possession and sprinted the length the court before swinging a pass to Ansleigh Ferguson underneath, and the post player banked a layup underneath as time expired to propel North Hall into the semifinal round.
With the win, North Hall will face the winner two-seed East Hall and Gainesville at 3:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 27, as tourney action moves to West Hall High in Oakwood.
Ferguson finished with double-double numbers for a game-high 18 points and 13 rebounds for North Hall. North Hall made a combined nine 3s, getting three from Ansley Smallwood (nine points) and two piece from senior Kaylie Bell and freshman Rylie McCall.
As for the Lady Lions, they accrued 10 3-pointers in the contest, and used that success from outside the arc to build a 37-32 halftime lead, and maintain a two-point edge going into the final eight minutes. Jackie Allen and Eliza Snyder had 15 points apiece to pace Lakeview Academy, which now moves down to the consolation portion of the bracket and will face the loser of Gainesville-East Hall at 9:30 a.m. on Friday.
CHESTATEE GIRLS 60, WEST HALL 34: Maggie McNair led Chestatee girls with 19 points in a victory over four-seed West Hall in the first round of the Lanierland basketball tournament on Thursday, Dec. 27, at Chestatee High in Gainesville.
The No. 5 seeded Lady War Eagles held a high pressure from the get-go and had nine steals, six in the second half, along with eight 3-pointers to stay ahead.
Also for the Lady War Eagles, Nicole Sedwick scored 13 points.