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Flowery Branch girls eager to compete
With Tuesday's practice cancelled, coach wants game moved back
Cashmere Champion, top, of Flowery Branch, fights for the ball with Peyton Robertson, of Chestatee, during the Region 7-AAA quarterfinal game. - photo by Tom Reed
Today's state tournament games

Flowery Branch girls at Columbia, 6 p.m.

Franklin County girls at Gainesville, 6:30 p.m.

Westminster at Jefferson, 7 p.m.

Johnson boys at Riverwood, 7 p.m.

West Hall boys at Elbert County, 7 p.m.

East Hall boys at Columbia, 7:30 p.m.

Franklin County boys at North Hall, 8:30 p.m.

Buford girls at Crawford County, 6 p.m.

Towns County girls at Wesleyan, TBA
Flowery Branch girls coach Hazel Hall knows that in order for her team to pull off another upset in the state tournament, they’re going to have to be at their best.

The second-year coach is also aware that in order for her team to be at its best, it needs the proper preparation.

As a result of the snow that blanketed Hall County on Tuesday, schools were closed and practices were cancelled.

For Hall and the Lady Falcons, that meant one day of preparation (Monday) before meeting fifth-ranked Columbia in the state’s second round.

And now Hall, in an effort to give her team the best chance to compete, is pushing for her game to be moved to Thursday.

“If we have to go (today), we have to go,” Hall said. “We’ll get up and practice (this) morning and go compete.

“But the GHSA says everyone has to agree to play before the game can be played, and right now, we don’t agree.”

With both the Columbia boys and girls in the second round, a double-header was set up for tonight with the girls playing at 6 p.m. and the boys at 7:30 against East Hall.

“We want to give our kids a chance to compete without any other distractions,” Hall said. “Their boys team is good and the gym will be packed for them.

“So if we can get this changed, we’ll do that.”

As of press time Tuesday, no decision had been made, but Hall said one would be made by this morning.

“I’ve sent e-mails to who I need to send e-mails to and we’ll see what happens.”

Regardless of whether the game is played tonight or Thursday, the Lady Falcons will have to contend with a team currently riding a 17-game winning streak that thrives on defensive pressure.

“Valuing the basketball will be the most important thing in the game,” Hall said. “They put pressure on you and are more of a transition team than anything else.”

Led by Zuri Frost (4.5 steals per game), Destinee Smith (3.3 steals per game) and Kadeyah Vaughn (3 steals per game),
Columbia averages 13.1 steals per game while scoring 56 points per contest.

The silver lining for Hall and Flowery Branch is that the team shoots just 38 percent from the field.

“They’re big,” Hall said. “But they don’t shoot well from the outside, and if we can take care of the ball and not give them easy baskets, we have a great shot.”

Hall’s reference to Columbia’s size is another obstacle in the path of a Flowery Branch upset — this one literally standing in its way.

Six-foot, four-inch Akila McDonald, a Central Florida signee, averages two blocks per game and eight rebounds. Her season highs have included one game with 21 rebounds, two games with 15 rebounds and seven games with four or more blocks.

“We’ve changed some things a little bit and may do some stuff we haven’t done all season,” Hall said.

A key for the Lady Falcons, aside from ensuring protecting its possessions, is Jessica Harper staying on the court.

The catalyst for Flowery Branch’s late-season playoff run and the team’s leading scorer got into foul trouble against Southeast Whitfield and spent the better part of the first half on the bench.

“We went from being up 22-10, to the score being tied 22-all at halftime,” Hall said. “Luckily (Harper) came back in the second half and took over and as a result the team settled down.

“We panicked a bit when she went out and tried to play too fast.”

Harper scored 19 of her team-high 24 points in the second half to secure the 54-37 first round win for Flowery Branch.

“She’s a big key for us, I don’t think that’s really even something I have to say,” Hall said. “She isn’t somebody we can have sitting on the bench in foul trouble.”


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