FLOWERY BRANCH — The first two games of the Region 7-AAA tournament for Gainesville had one thing in common: a slow start.
Showing a pronounced desire to buck that two-game trend, Gainesville outscored East Hall 14-4 in the first quarter en route to a 22-8 lead by halftime and a 49-37 win Tuesday night in the finals of the region tournament at Flowery Branch High.
“We talked before the game about it being great to be a third-quarter team,” said Gainesville coach Manson Hill, whose team was making its 14th straight appearance in the region finals. “But tonight we wanted to be a first-quarter team.”
With the win, Gainesville not only earned its third straight region crown, but also the No. 1 seed out of Region 7-AAA for the state playoffs.
The Lady Red Elephants (15-9) will play host to Carrollton, the No. 4 seed out of Region 7-AAA, on Saturday. The game will be a rematch of the season’s first, which Gainesville won 49-38.
“We felt like this was a really good team at the beginning of the season and still feel like they can be,” Hill said. “We played a tough schedule to see if the kids could handle it, and while we lost our confidence a little at times, we learned and feel good going into state.”
East Hall (21-6), which will enter the state tournament as the No. 2 seed from Region 7-AAA, will play host to Ringgold, the No. 3 seed from Region 6-AAA, on Saturday. The times of both games have not been determined yet.
Gainesville’s offense was stout from the start as the team shot 62 percent from the field in the first quarter and 51 percent for the first half.
It was the Lady Red Elephants defense, however, that allowed them to pull away early.
East Hall didn’t score its first points until the two-minute mark — on two free throws by Shauna Butler — and was held without a field goal until 23 seconds remained in the first quarter.
“We played really good defense again,” Hill said. “We scrapped and played hard and that was key because they are scrappy and have a good team.”
Gainesville managed to do two things extremely well: stop East Hall’s penetration and get out quickly on the Lady Vikings’ 3-point shooters. It showed in the fact that through three quarters, East Hall only scored 16 points.
Offensively, Gainesville was once again led by Jaymee Carnes, who scored 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
Rebecca Webster added 10 points for the Lady Red Elephants and Loren Thomas had five assists.
“This was an all-around good team win for us,” Hill said. “We got great contribution from our bench and our girls handled East Hall’s pressure well.”
East Hall was led by sophomore Jasmine Jenkins who scored 17 points. Morgan Jackson added nine points for the Lady Vikings and senior Dorreka Faulkner had eight steals.