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Davis: Talent on display in annual tourney
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High school basketball

Tonight’s schedule

  • North Hall girls at Gainesville, 6 p.m.
  • Rabun County girls at Banks County, 6 p.m.
  • Chestatee girls at Lumpkin County, 6 p.m.
  • Stephens County girls at Jackson County, 6 p.m.
  • Pickens girls at White County, 6 p.m.
  • Jefferson girls at East Hall, 7 p.m.
  • North Hall boys at Gainesville, 7:30 p.m.
  • Rabun County boys at Banks County, 7:30 p.m.
  • Chestatee boys at Lumpkin County, 7:30 p.m.
  • Stephens County boys at Jackson County, 7:30 p.m.
  • Pickens boys at White County, 7:30 p.m.

For those unfamiliar with what a basketball showcase is, think cattle call.

Several times each year, at college gyms nationwide, players serious about taking their skills to the next level gather, are given a number, and play.

That number serves as the players’ name and is how college coaches first address those they want to recruit.

“We need a shooter,” a lurking coach might say. “No. 423 has range and form, let’s go find out what his parents call him.”

Boy, do those showcases make you feel special.

The appealing thing about showcases to coaches and participants alike, however, is that something special always happens, someone special always emerges.

One time each year, at high schools across Hall County, players converge for Lanierland, an event that has become a more personal form of a basketball showcase.

Annually, the citizens of Hall County get treated to 20 games played by some of the top talent not only in North Georgia, but also in the state.

The most appealing thing about Lanierland, however, is that many special things happen and many special players emerge.

For instance, there are the Flowery Branch girls, who played an inspired brand of basketball on their way to taking two out of three games.

The Lady Falcons don’t have a star and it works for them. The team full of role players is tenacious on the defensive end and consistently hits shots.

There’s little better than watching a team that plays hard each and every possession, and first-year Flowery Branch coach Hazel Hall has her team doing just that.

As usual, Lanierland was a showcase for the Lakeview boys, who beat defending Region 7-AAA champion Flowery Branch in the first round and lost by only one to North Hall in its consolation game.

Coach Seth Vining made no bones early in the season about his team’s struggles shooting the ball. He also let it be known that if the shooting didn’t get better, there would be early-morning practice to pay.

It’s pretty safe to say that his boys listened, and the results were seen against Flowery Branch in one of the best shooting displays ever at Lanierland.

The North Hall boys beat East Hall, but that wasn’t what was impressive about them. The Trojans, despite being young and inexperienced, are different this year in that they are a team.

It goes without saying that Benji Wood is a pretty good coach, and this year he has players who have bought into his way and have taken on his personality; relentless and accepting of little else than a try at perfection.

Standout individual performances at Lanierland came each game.

West Hall’s Jayla Moon, bless her heart, couldn’t buy a bucket in the consolation round against Chestatee, but managed to muscle her way to an offensive rebound and score the putback in the waning seconds of game.

Tyler Ward had 21 points in the first half against Flowery Branch, leading the way in the aforementioned shooting performance by his team.

The two, however, that stand out the most need no introduction.

Shunquez Stephens put on a monster double-double performance against Gainesville in the first round (28 points, 14 rebounds) and Jaymee Carnes led Gainesville to yet another Lanierland title with a classic display of her own (28 points, 16 rebounds, six blocks).

There are, year after year, stars in the Lanierland showcase. These two took it one step further.

It’s nearly impossible to predict what will come of this season based on one tournament, but if Stephens and Carnes do half of what they did in leading their respective teams to Lanierland titles, a region trophy is right around the corner.

People seek out nationwide showcases or something of the sort in their own state to see the top talent or prove they are the top talent. How lucky are we to have one each and every year right in our backyard?

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