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Girls Athlete of the Week: Gainesville's Taylor Hawks
Lady Red Elephants freshman notched 32 points in Lanierland championship game
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Gainesville's Taylor Hawks drives to the basket during the Lanierland Tournament girls championship game against North Hall on Saturday at Lakeview Academy. Hawks scored a team-high 32 points, leading the Lady Red Elephants to their first Lanierland title since 2005. - photo by Nat Gurley | The Times

Honor Roll

Bridgette Kelly, Chestatee: Tallied 24 points in a win against Lumpkin County last Tuesday and 33 in a win against Lakeview Academy in the Lanierland Tournament on Saturday.

Ashley Parker, Dawson County: Scored 27 points in a win against White County last Tuesday, 14 in a win against Lumpkin County on Friday.

Karlie Bearden, Dawson County: Notched 15 points in a win against White County last Tuesday.

Corey Staples, Buford: Recorded 16 points in a win against Banks County on Friday.

Sydney Cleveland, North Hall: Tallied 17 points in a loss to Gainesville on Saturday.

Sadie Cleveland, North Hall: Had 15 points in Saturday’s loss to Gainesville.

Hanna Grogan, Lakeview Academy: Scored 19 points in the loss to Chestatee on Saturday.

Macy Passmore, West Hall: Notched 15 points in a win against Johnson in the Lanierland Tournament on Saturday.

Area high school basketball fans may have gotten their first glimpse at a rising girls star in Saturday’s Lanierland Tournament championship game.

With a Lakeview Academy gym packed beyond capacity for the finale of the 54-year event, Gainesville’s Taylor Hawks put on quite a show for the massive audience.

The Lady Red Elephants’ freshman scored a team-high 32 points in Gainesville’s 57-50 win over North Hall, helping her team win its first Lanierland title since 2008. She was honored with tournament MVP for her monster game.

All this with just nine games of experience in her varsity career.

For her efforts, Hawks is The Times Girls Athlete of the Week.

“(The win) brings (our confidence) up tremendously,” Hawks said. “We keep working hard at practice every day, just trying to get better. And we want to win every time.”

Gainesville hasn’t won every time with Hawks on the team, but it’s pretty close. After losing their season opener to Clarke Central on Nov. 26, the Lady Red Elephants are approaching a month of perfect basketball with an eight-game winning streak at hand.

It’s an immediate turnaround from the Gainesville’s 2012-2013 season, when the Lady Red Elephants finished fifth at Lanierland and went on to miss the state playoffs.

Gone are those days.

“A freshman played her tail off and made some things happen,” Gainesville coach Brenda Hill-Gilmore said. “Key players made some shots, then turned around and made some key stops. North Hall’s not an easy team to beat, and we knew that coming in.”

Hawks scored 15 points in Friday’s semifinal game against Chestatee, leading the Lady Red Elephants to a stunning 41-27 win over the defending Lanierland champions. She scored 13 in the first half as Gainesville used a 15-0 run — seven points by Hawks — in the second quarter to take a 22-10 lead at halftime and stay ahead the rest of the way.

Hawks only padded her Lanierland MVP resume with a quick start in Saturday’s game, scoring 16 points in the first half as Gainesville once again overcame a first-quarter deficit to dominate the second and take a 27-19 lead at intermission. She scored all but two of the Lady Red Elephants’ first-quarter points, then hit back-to-back 3-pointers in the second quarter to ignite an 11-0 run that put her team up for good.

North Hall battled back in the second half and even cut Gainesville’s to two with 4:13 left to play, but it was none other than Hawks who hit four crucial free throws late in the game to make any hopes of a Lady Trojans rally disappear.

“Nobody thought we would be here but us,” Hill-Gilmore said. “Our kids believe that we would be here and have the opportunity to win this game.”

Alongside her 32 points, Hawks also recorded six rebounds, four assists and five steals for an all-around impressive performance.

Especially for a freshman, who has three and half more years of high school basketball to perfect her craft even more, all the while growing with a young but very talented Gainesville team.

“We’ve known we have a special team all year,” Hill-Gilmore said. “We’ve got more depth this year, and the kids know each other. I’m blessed to have wonderful young ladies that love the game of basketball just as much as I do.”

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