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Gainesville girls reach quarterfinals on Hawks' buzzer-beater
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Gainesville's girls basketball team celebrates after upsetting No. 2 Greenbrier in the second round of the Class AAAAA state playoffs on Friday in Evans. - photo by Jim Blaylock

EVANS — The ball was in the right hands for Gainesville in the final seconds of Friday’s second-round playoff game against Greenbrier. Sophomore Taylor Hawks took the pass from Shikiya Brown, looked both ways and just before time expired drained a finger-roll shot in the lane to secure the upset win of the second-ranked Lady Wolfpack in Evans.

Hawks’ shot on an under-handed roll went through the net and as time expired Gainesville’s players took to the court to celebrate the 47-45 victory.

“Hitting a game-winning shot feels unbelievable,” said Hawks. “As soon as it left my hand, I knew I’d made it.”

With the win, the Lady Red Elephants (22-8) move on to the state quarterfinals to face Mays (26-2) on Tuesday in Atlanta.

Gainesville coach Brenda Hill-Gilmore was confident in Hawks down the stretch. Even though she scored just three points heading into the final possession, Hawks has gained the trust of the entire program for her clutch play both seasons in high school.

At this critical juncture, the game was on the line. Hawks’ name was called. And, boy, did she deliver.

After Hawks knocked down the game winner, players formed a pile on the court, while the Gainesville fans that made the 130-mile trip also let loose.

“That was just so exciting,” said Hill-Gilmore. “These kids played so hard tonight.”

“I don’t think I’ve stopped smiling since Taylor hit that shot to win it,” Brown said after leaving the locker room.

Gainesville’s coach said a key stat in its favor was drawing six charges when the physically-imposing Greenbrier (26-4) was on offense.

It was quite the week for Gainesville basketball. On Thursday, the Red Elephant boys beat North Atlanta on D’Marcus Simonds’ shot at the buzzer for the overtime victory.

Gainesville’s victory by the girls program was just as exciting. After the lead changed hands six times starting early in the third quarter, the Lady Red Elephants also overcame a four-point hole late in the fourth quarter.

The Red Elephants used phenomenal defense to counter the size advantage of Greenbrier, which struggled to hit shots all night. Brown, a junior, gave Gainesville its first two leads of the third quarter with consecutive 3-point baskets.

Then in the final two minutes of the third quarter, the Lady Red Elephants built their biggest cushion of the game, eight points, when Breana Fair knocked down a jump shot followed by a 3-pointer.

Greenbrier knotted it back up at 39-39 with 3:40 left to play when Morgan Taylor finessed around a defender for a layup. Two possessions before tying the game, Taylor stripped the ball and went the length of the court for a basket.

The Lady Wolfpack’s largest lead of the final quarter came when Taylor (18 points) got position underneath and put it back in for a basket, to go up 41-37.

Trailing late, Gainesville didn’t panic. Brown (13 points) knocked down both ends of a trip to the free throw line, and Hawks hit a basket to get within a point, 44-43.

After Greenbrier hit one of two free throws with 1:14 left to play, Gainesville’s Tanai Watson came down court and hit a clutch basket to tie it again, 45-45.

After stopping Greenbrier on the other end, the Lady Red Elephants set up the final possession. Hawks responded with a game-winning shot the Lady Red Elephants will remember for many years to come.

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