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Flowery Branch girls top East Hall, earn first Lanierland championship since 2003
Taniyah Worth named tournament MVP
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East Hall's Jenny Edwards guards Flowery Branch's Maddie Hetzel as she goes up for a layup Wednesday during the girls championship game at the Lanierland basketball tournament at East Hall High School.

Girls All-Tournament Team

Hanna Grogan – Lakeview Academy

Lindsey Caudell – Chestatee

Sarah Hollifield – North Hall

Anna McKendree – West Hall

Summer Lindsey - East Hall

Julianne Sutton – Flowery Branch

Caroline Odum – Johnson

Kayla Kelly - Gainesville

Sportsmanship award: Macy Passmore - West Hall

MVP: Taniyah Worth - Flowery Branch

Courtney Newton always felt in control as a freshman on Flowery Branch’s Lanierland title-winning team back in 2003.

This time, as a coach, the experience was just as gratifying, if not a little more stressful.

The undefeated Lady Falcons (14-0) used a 15-3 run in the final four minutes of the second quarter to hold off East Hall for a 72-49 win that secured Flowery Branch’s first title in 12 years.

“I’m so proud of these kids for fighting as hard as they did,” said Newton, who took over for Hazel Hall over the offseason. “I didn’t understand it at that moment; years ago, what it means, but now I remember the joy I had when we won it. I’m feeling it right now.”

Maddie Hetzel led all scorers with 21 points, four rebounds and three steals, while tournament MVP Taniyah Worth (12 points) had an excellent game as a facilitator for teammates Kierra Knight and Julianne Sutton (11 points each).

Ashlyn Ellison and Kylah Mize both led the Vikings (11-3) with 17 points apiece.

Bolstered by 3-pointers from Knight and Hetzel, the Falcons turned an 11-all tie early in the second quarter into a 11-point halftime lead. Newton’s team then scored 28 points in the third to pull out to a 56-34 advantage heading into the final frame.

The Lady Falcons led by as much as 25 just before the fourth quarter. Treys by Carly Winters and Ellison, along with an 8-0 run to open the last quarter of action allowed East Hall to pull within 14, but the Lady Vikings were unable to dent Flowery Branch’s lead.

“Our team didn’t quit,” said East Hall coach Justin Wheeler. “We fought to the end. I told them that it’s a privilege to play this game, in this final. We’re hurting now, but we’ll bounce back.”

The Lady Falcons’ defense never let East Hall have a second of rest. Flowery Branch, coming off last year’s heartbreaking loss in the title game to Gainesville, looked far more motivated behind tall targets Worth and Sutton, who both made the all-tournament team.

Worth scored all of her points in the second and third quarters. She knocked home a 3-pointer to put Flowery Branch up 31-17 just seconds into the second half, then turned provider when she found a wide-open Hetzel for a layup that spurred the Falcons lead to 20.

“It’s an indescribable feeling,” said Worth of her MVP nomination. “It felt good to do what I could for the team in a big game like that.”

Hetzel was given an ovation by the Flowery Branch fans when she fouled out with less than three minutes remaining. Newton took out her starters just a minute later.

“I’m really impressed by how she played,” said Newton. “I don’t think she understands how big this game is, but everyone wants to win it, especially the seniors. We have more goals, but we’ll enjoy this for now.”  

GAINESVILLE GIRLS 39, NORTH HALL 33: Gainesville held North Hall to just 11 second-half points, including only four in the fourth quarter to secure a third-place finish at the 2015 Lanierland tournament Wednesday at East Hall High.

Gainesville’s Shikiya Brown led all scorers with 13 points, while Tija Blackwell added 11.

Taylor Anne Kelley led North Hall with 12 points, and Sydney Cleveland added eight for the Lady Trojans, who finished in fourth place.

Both teams entered the final frame tied at 28-28, but Gainesville’s defense shut down North Hall, allowing just one Lady Trojans field goal in the final eight minutes. The Lady Red Elephants scored 11 points in the fourth.

North Hall led 22-21 at halftime.