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Gainesville boys, girls pull off vital region wins over rival Flowery Branch
Lady Red Elephants knock off No. 2 Lady Falcons; Simonds scores 22 for Big Red boys
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Gainesville's Michael White (5) puts pressure on Flowery Branch's Dalton Gerdts (21) as he dribbles across half court during Friday's game at Flowery Branch High School. - photo by Erin O. Smith

No matter the team, no matter the matchup, Gainesville coach Brenda Hill-Gilmore knew one thing unites every game between Gainesville and Flowery Branch.

It’s always better to have bragging rights over your friends. (VIDEO INTERVIEW WITH HILL-GILMORE)

Taylor Hawks and Shikiya Brown combined for 47 points, while Breanna Fair tacked on 10 as the Lady Red Elephants knocked off second-ranked Flowery Branch 60-48 Friday night to score a crucial road region victory.

“Any time we play Flowery Branch, East Hall, North Hall, our kids know each other, they’re friends, and you always want to beat your friends,” said Hill-Gilmore.

Gainesville (10-3, 7-0 in Region 8-AAAAA) outscored the Lady Falcons 15-5 in the second quarter to help secure the lead, which keeps the Red Elephants unbeaten in region play.

On the other side, Flowery Branch (16-1, 6-1) was unable to summon the same energy, succumbing to its first loss of the 2015-16 season. The two teams will meet again on Jan. 26 at Gainesville High.

Julianne Sutton led the Lady Falcons with 21 points, while Taniyah Worth had 11 to help the cause.

“We’ve got a 24-hour rule in our house,” said first-year Flowery Branch coach Courtney Newton. “They’re high school kids, so they’ve got to learn from it. Anyone can come out and beat you if you’re not doing what got you there is the first place, so it’s a learning experience.”

Flowery Branch led by four with 1:32 left in the first quarter, but Hawks helped spark the Gainesville comeback. She nailed a long trey at the buzzer heading into the second quarter, which allowed the Lady Red Elephants the momentum to open the second with a 10-1 run and retake the lead.

Brown put Gainesville on her shoulders in the third quarter, scoring 14 of her 21 points in the quarter to push Gainesville to an 8-point advantage. She notched two of her three 3-pointers in the third, just as Maddie Hetzel (10 points) was heating up around the paint.

Hawks was nearly flawless from the free throw stripe, scoring 11 of 12 chances to hold Flowery Branch at bay late in the fourth.

“I think the kids prepped for this really well,” said Hill-Gilmore. “It was a great team win. The seniors really want to go out winning, but this next game won’t be easy. It’s big any time you go to your opponents’ court and come out with a win.”

The two teams will meet again on Jan. 26 at Gainesville High.

GAINESVILLE BOYS 57, FLOWERY BRANCH 49: Senior D’Marcus Simonds needed just the right dunk to start a rivalry win off right.

His first was wobbly, the result of a body under him as he moved in for the jam.

The second, just two minutes later, was right on point.

The Georgia State signee rose above the rim to complete a booming alley-oop from an inbounds pass by Messiah Dorsey, putting Gainesville up by five on its way to an important road region victory Friday night at the Flowery Branch High gym.

“Whenever you get to do something like that, it’s a part of the game,” he said afterwards. “The crowd loves it, and I’m happy to do it, especially against a rivalry team.”

Simonds finished with 22 points, 14 of which he scored in the fourth quarter, to lead the Red Elephants to a win that his future college coach Ron Hunter got to witness.

Simonds recently signed to play basketball for Georgia State after decommitting from Mississippi State during the spring of 2015.

“He keeps getting better,” said Hunter. “He’s going to be a good college player and get Georgia State back in that tournament.”

No. 8 Gainesville (8-3, 7-0 in Region 8-AAAAA) knocked off the recently-crowned Lanierland champions with the victory.

The Red Elephants were served a two-game suspension following an altercation at a holiday tournament in Kentucky and did not play at Lanierland. However, the team has since bounced back with region wins over Lanier and the Falcons (10-7, 1-6).

Bailey Minor added 10 points, while Tae Turner notched nine for Gainesville, who is still undefeated in region play. The Red Elephants made it to second round of the state playoffs last season.

Flowery Branch was led by Brannon Clark (12 points) and John Mills (11), while Trey Bailey picked up 10 points in a balanced night that ultimately came up short.

The Falcons pulled off a 7-0 run in the middle of the third quarter to edge into the lead up 34-32, but Michael White knocked down back-to-back shots to restore the Gainesville lead heading into the final eight minutes.

Simonds then scored 14 of his team’s 20 points in the fourth quarter, including all eight of his free throws, to ice the win.

“We found a way to grind one out,” said Gainesville coach Benjie Wood. “We had a hard time tonight getting our rhythm together, which is what happens when you’re up against a tough team like they are.”

The Red Elephants led by as many as 12 with 2:30 left in the fourth quarter.

The two teams will meet again on Jan. 26 at Gainesville High. The Red Elephants swept both meetings last season, winning by an average of 23 points per game.

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