Chestatee girls coach Web Daniel hopes that this is the season his program cracks through with its first Lanierland tournament championship, but to make that happen they’ll have to go through undefeated Flowery Branch.
On Thursday, the Lady War Eagles (10-1) rallied past North Hall with excellent fourth-quarter free throw shooting (12 of 13) and the inside presence of senior Maegan Kenimer for a 46-41 semifinal victory at Gainesville.
With the win, Chestatee will face Flowery Branch (11-0), a 57-33 winner over East Hall, in the Lanierland title game at 6 p.m. Saturday at North Hall.
“We expect to be here (in the finals)” Daniel said. “We have a group of girls that have been playing together since the eighth grade.”
Chestatee has made the Lanierland finals twice, both times losing against East Hall in the championship, most recently in 2010. Trailing 41-34 midway through the final period, Kenimer hit a pair of shots at the foul line with 3:10 left to play, then another pair from the line after drawing a foul just 30 seconds later to tie the score at 41-41.
Kenimer finished with a game-high 15 points, while Bridgette Kelly and Erin Clifford each added eight points for the Lady War Eagles.
Leading by four points early in the fourth quarter, North Hall (6-2) pushed its lead to as high as seven over the next four minutes with two free throws and later a basket by Jordan Nix (nine points). Ansley Chester also had a basket for the Lady Trojans early in the fourth quarter.
Despite trailing, Daniel said his girls never panicked.
“We came out of a timeout with three minutes left, and Sam (Brown) and Maegan said to me, ‘we aren’t going to lose,’” Daniel said.
After a fairly tight back-and-forth first half, North Hall’s Sydney Cleveland went to work in the third quarter, scoring eight of her team-high 13 points.
With the loss, North Hall will host East Hall in the tournament’s third-place game at 3 p.m. Saturday.
FLOWERY BRANCH GIRLS 57, EAST HALL 33: Tavia Sykes scored a game-high 12 points for Flowery Branch in its semifinal victory, securing a spot in the Lanierland finals against Chestatee on Saturday at North Hall. Dani Lacko had nine points for the Lady Falcons, while Marissa Ivey and Jasmine Thornton each chipped in seven.
Heather Moore drained a 3-point basket at the first-quarter buzzer, giving Flowery Branch its first double-digit lead of the night. Sykes followed with another 3-point shot for the Lady Falcons midway through the second quarter.
Chelsea Dale led East Hall with nine points and Jatasia Bailey added seven. With the loss, the Lady Vikings will face North Hall at 3 p.m. Saturday at North Hall.
EAST HALL BOYS 82, FLOWERY BRANCH 59: The Vikings turned a three-point halftime lead into a big victory with a 52-point second half against the Falcons in Thursday’s consolation game.
East Hall (2-4) hit 10 3-pointers in the game, including five in the fourth quarter. The win marks the Vikings’ highest point tally of the season.
Bryan Edwards led East Hall with 25, while Hayden Chapman sunk four 3-pointers and finished the game with 15 points.
Flowery Branch (2-9) was led by Nick Wayne’s 18 points, 14 of which came in the first half. Jamaad Stephens also broke double figures with 11 points.
East Hall continues consolation play against Lakeview Academy at 1 p.m. Saturday at North Hall. Flowery Branch closes out Lanierland against Chestatee at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, also at North Hall.
LAKEVIEW BOYS 81, CHESTATEE 66: Austin Montgomery troubled the Chestatee defense with a 31-point night for the Lions in a consolation game.
Despite Montgomery’s dominant night, the War Eagles (3-8) never let Lakeview (6-3) gain a lead of more than 10 points at the end of each quarter, but the Lions still outscored Chestatee in each period and cruised through the fourth quarter to win their sixth game in the last seven outings.
Along with Montgomery, Trevor Price also hit double-digit points with 15. Chestatee was led by Aaron Manders, who tallied 22.
Lakeview wraps up Lanierland against East Hall at 1 p.m. Saturday at North Hall. Chestatee concludes the tournament against Flowery Branch at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, also at North Hall.
Mitch Blomert contributed to this report