Benjie Wood considers his first season as Gainesville’s boys coach a constant work in progress. However, the Red Elephants (2-4) made their first notable step forward on the season with an 89-80 victory against Lakeview Academy in the Lanierland opener Saturday at Flowery Branch.
“Every day, we’re just trying to step forward and not go back,” said Wood. “We just want to play consistent and play as a team.”
Behind a decisive 40-21 rebounding edge, Gainesville turned a small halftime deficit into a 65-55 lead on a J.D. Sosebee basket in the final minute of the third period. He finished with a team-high 20 points, and scored seven early points in the third quarter for the Elephants.
Gainesville spread the offense around with 13 points from Cedric Bryant, and 12 each from Rodney Lackey, Sam Carpenter and Luke Maddox.
One of Sosebee’s baskets early in the third quarter put Gainesville in front 52-48. After a block by Lackey on a Lions (4-2) shot, Bryant came down court and hit another basket for Gainesville.
“Our energy there in the third quarter really wasn’t where we needed it to be,” said Lakeview Academy coach Todd Cottrell, who just last season guided Gainesville to the Class AAAAA state finals. “We had some turnovers, didn’t execute our inbounds plays correctly and had four or five consecutive empty trips down the court.”
Kirk Schneider scored a game-high 21 for the Lions, including 16 in the first quarter as the Lions kept a small lead for the majority of the first half. Josh Randolph (14 points) and J.B. Britte (10) were also in double figures for Lakeview, which hosts Flowery Branch in the consolation portion of the tournament at 5:30 p.m. Friday in Gainesville.
Meanwhile, Gainesville moves on to the semifinals and faces Johnson at 7 p.m. Thursday at Flowery Branch.
JOHNSON BOYS 83, FLOWERY BRANCH 62: The Knights (5-2) rode decisive scoring runs late in the first half and again late in the third quarter during the first-round of the Lanierland. With the win, Johnson will face Gainesville in the tournament semifinals at 7 p.m. Thursday at Flowery Branch.
The Knights got hot and outscored the Falcons 14-4, capped with a basket by Justin Jones with 1:03 remaining in the opening half. In the third quarter, Carter Cagle (13 points) hit a pair of 3-pointers and Justin Jones had a slam dunk to make it a 23-point lead for Johnson.
Even with the win, Johnson coach Jeff Steele was upset with inconsistent play, crediting the Falcons for forcing the Knights into mistakes.
“It’s like a rollercoaster with us right now, and I don’t even like rollercoasters,” Steele said. “I’m holding our team to a higher standard.
“We were undisciplined, were gambling on defense and missed too many assignments.”
Ty Cockfield led Johnson with a game-high 20 points. The Knights finished the game with 32 rebounds — 14 on offense. James Hodges scored 16 for Johnson, while Drew Dunham chipped in 12.
Johnson put the game away after the Falcons cut their deficit to 44-35 early in the third quarter. Cagle hit a pair of 3s for the Knights to regain control, followed by a basket on a fourth attempt at a putback underneath by Cockfield.
Cody Dewing scored 16 for Flowery Branch, Isaac Mize finished with 12 and Brett Shepherd chipped in 10. With the loss, the Falcons move into the consolation to face Lakeview Academy at 5:30 p.m. Friday in Gainesville.
EAST HALL BOYS 72, WEST HALL 44: Three players reached double figures as the Vikings made a bold opening statement about their chances of winning Lanierland for the first time since 2010.
East Hall opened the game with a 16-2 run and poured on another 12-point run in the second quarter for a 43-22 lead at halftime.
The lead only grew larger as the game progressed. The Vikings led by 34 through three quarters, fueled by a 12-2 run to close out the third quarter.
East Hall plays in the championship semifinals against the North Hall/Chestatee winner at 8:30 p.m. Thursday at Flowery Branch.
“We got a win, so we’re still alive,” Vikings coach Joe Dix said. “We have to get ourselves ready. I think Johnson (the No. 2 seed) should be the favorite with what they have coming back and the success they had last year, but strange things have happened in this tournament before. “
Devin Watson scored 15 points to lead East Hall (4-3), while Kyvon Davenport and Jacquen Hopkins each added 11.
Davenport also recorded seven blocks, including four in the first two minutes of the game.
“Kyvon is one the most improved players in Hall County,” Dix said.
“He’s averaging about 18 points and about 15 rebounds a game. He’s really playing well.”
Nic Sullens was the lone West Hall scorer in double figures with 13 points.
The Spartans continue tournament play at 4 p.m. Friday against the North Hall/Chestatee loser in the consolation at Lakeview Academy.
CHESTATEE BOYS 77, NORTH HALL 71: The second of Joey Scheman's late fourth-quarter 3-pointers within a one-minute span gave the War Eagles (3-6) their first lead since the opening quarter in Day 1 of the Lanierland at Flowery Branch. Jodan Pullium, who scored a game-high 20 for Chestatee, kept it a two possession lead with two free throws in the final minute.
Chestatee trailed by as much as 12 in the third period, but started to chip away with baskets from Hunter Creamer (14 points) and Ryan Barnes.
Scheman hit four 3-pointers for Chestatee and finished the game with 17 points.
North Hall turned the ball over eight times in the fourth quarter.
Carson Heinen hit 3-pointers in each of the final three periods for North Hall and scored a game-high 25 points. Brock Wingo finished with 13 for the Trojans, while Harrison Lovell chipped in 10.
Chestatee advances to face East Hall in the semifinals at 8:30 p.m. Thursday in Flowery Branch. North Hall faces West Hall in the consolation round at 4 p.m. Friday at Lakeview Academy.