No matter how you slice it, this is a strange week for high school basketball in Hall County. Take Gainesville as an example.
Sandwiched in between games in the always-important Lanierland tournament with county bragging rights on the line, the Red Elephants (3-4, 2-4 Region 8-AAAAA) were in a battle against Flowery Branch in a game a couple of rungs higher in terms of significance Tuesday in Gainesville.
And just like the first round of the Lanierland, Gainesville did just enough to win, but enough wrong to keep first-year coach Benjie Wood flustered by what he classifies as a lack of consistency. Fueled by a strong fourth quarter from J.D. Sosebee, Gainesville rallied for a 52-48 victory.
“We’re showing flashes right now, just not playing consistent,” said Wood, who says the region win is much more important than out-of-league tournament play. “I felt like we played as a team in the first half, then not as hard in the second half.”
After Luke Maddox put Gainesville in front 39-37 early in the fourth period, Sosebee twice managed to fight off Falcons defenders underneath for a pair of baskets to match the Red Elephants’ biggest lead of the game at 43-37. Sosebee scored 10 in the fourth quarter and finished with a team-high 12 points.
For Flowery Branch, Cody Dewing led the way with 21 points, including a dunk that put the Falcons back within three points with only two minutes left in the game. Cedric Bryant and Maddox (11 points) helped Gainesville ice the victory with free throws in the final minute.
In the girls game, Gainesville didn’t let a nine-point second-half lead go to waste with a 50-45 win in overtime.
Now, the Red Elephants boys turn their attention back to the Lanierland with a semifinal game against Johnson at Flowery Branch. Wood says it difficult to shuffle back and forth from tournament play to region games.
“I hate it,” Wood said of Lanierland’s eight-day format. “The way they have (Lanierland) set up doesn’t make any sense.”
Against Flowery Branch (1-7, 0-6), Gainesville led most of the night after jumping out to as big as a 28-14 lead in the opening half with baskets from five different players. Jay Gaudlock, Sam Carpenter and Maddox all hit 3-pointers, while Ithello Cross and Rodney Lackey knocked down inside jumpers during the course of the second quarter for the Red Elephants.
Flowery Branch regained the lead in the third quarter thanks in part to a pair of 3-pointers by Taylor Bourdage (15 points) in the third quarter, then Brett Shepherd hit baskets twice to give the Falcons a 37-35 lead in the final minute of the third quarter.
Gainesville reclaimed the lead for good with Maddox’s steal and basket on the other side of the court with seven minutes left to play.
On Thursday, Gainesville faces Johnson at 7 p.m. at Flowery Branch. Flowery Branch faces home-standing Lakeview Academy in the consolation portion of the bracket at 5:30 p.m. Friday in Gainesville.
GAINESVILLE GIRLS 50, FLOWERY BRANCH 45 (OT): Taylor Hawks scored five overtime points for the Lady Red Elephants (3-5, 3-3) and finished with a team-high 14 points. In overtime, Kabree Randolph knocked down a 3-pointer for Gainesville, along with free throws by Paisley Lee (11 points).
As a result of 10 Flowery Branch turnovers in the third quarter, Gainesville managed to erase a 25-12 halftime deficit. The Lady Red Elephants outscored the Lady Falcons 21-1 during a stretch in the third quarter, while Flowery Branch finished the quarter without a basket.
Flowery Branch got closer in the fourth quarter with a late 3-pointer by Kierra Knight (10 points), and two free throws from Breanna Locke (10 points). Flowery Branch knotted the score at 40-40 after a Kylah Mize basket with just six seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime.
Next up in the Lanierland, Flowery Branch hosts West Hall in the consolation bracket at 5:30 p.m. Thursday. In the semifinals on Friday, Gainesville faces Chestatee at 8:30 p.m. at Lakeview Academy.