Hall returning to in-person school on hybrid schedule Jan. 19
Hall County Schools will return to an in-person hybrid schedule beginning Tuesday, Jan. 19, after the school system reported stabilizing COVID-19 numbers and “significantly” decreased student cases, Superintendent Will Schofield announced Thursday morning.
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Hall hoops heating up
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The annual Lanierland Tournament is but days away and, that said, there have been some (very) early-season shockers.

First of all, how 'bout them Falcons?

Both Flowery Branch teams are off to 4-0 starts and both teams come into tonight's games against Gilmer having beaten East Hall last Friday night in Flowery Branch.

Yes, that East Hall and pick up your jaw.

It could be said that the girls game was an, "oops." It came down to fouls and free throws, with the exception of the 3-pointer Flowery Branch's Clare Tyler hit to tie the score at 28 with less than a minute left. East Hall's Jessica Blackwell had a shot to win it, but barely missed a layup.

It is my opinion though, that a win's a win and props should be given to a young Courtney Newton-less Lady Falcons squad for beating the Class AAA No. 1-ranked Lady Vikings.

A win like the one last Friday night could carry them a long way.

On the boys side, it's rare in prep sports that an athlete bursts on the scene in his senior season. Even if - and here I go using the forbidden word again - they transfer in from a different school, they have still been heard of and anticipated. That said, who the heck is A.C. Bailey?

The Flowery Branch senior has, in the last three games, averaged a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds, including a 22-point, 15-rebound effort against cross-county rival Chestatee.

Falcons' coach Todd Cottrell has his team beating its opponents by an average of 18 points, including a 20-point win over perennial basketball powerhouse East Hall.

That, folks, is not an "oops."

The Johnson boys team is also undefeated heading into tonight's game with North Hall.

Devaris Finch, Brandon Sloan and Robert Taylor have been consistent scorers for the Knights in each of their first four wins.

Finch is averaging 17 points per game, Sloan is scoring 19 points per game (including a 26-point outing against Lumpkin County) and Taylor is averaging 14 points per game.

It makes a team hard to beat when an opponent can't hone in on just one or just two players.

I had the opportunity to see, for the first time, one of the county's top players in action Friday night and while, as a whole, his team played extremely well, he stood out hitting for 37 points in what can only be described as one of the most hostile environments in Hall County prep sports, the Gainesville High gym.

I am talking about Parker Smith.

The young man curls around screens tight, squares his shoulders and immediately goes into shooting mode once the ball touches his fingers. He shoots at the top of his jump, which makes his shot nearly impossible to block and the rotation of the ball is impeccable. He's a pure shooter and showed it Friday night.

What's even more impressive is that the ball didn't touch rim with any shot he hit and there is no sweeter sound in basketball than the swish of the net.

Mind you, Smith sat out most of the first half because he picked up two early fouls, therefore, 29 of his 37 were scored in the second half. That's a good night's work.

I am looking forward to seeing more big time performances from all Hall County's standout ballers.

In this week's crop of games, the Chestatee-Pickens boys matchup tonight should be a snoozer as will be the Flowery Branch-Gilmer boys game. The War Eagles are outscoring the Dragons by an average of 20 points per game while the Falcons are scoring 78 points per game to the Bobcats' 38 points per game.

In both instances, the girls games should be worth the price of admission, especially the Lady Falcons versus the Lady Bobcats. Both teams are undefeated and Flowery Branch has the added confidence that comes with having just beaten the No. 1 team in the state. It should be a good one.

The North Hall girls should, and I am going to reiterate the word, "should," beat Johnson. Letiecia Davenport and Elizabeth Williams are both scoring 17-plus points per game and the Lady Knights are 0-4.

The North Hall-Johnson boys game will be the third best game in the area tonight due to the standing-room only soirees that are the Gainesville-East Hall games.

The Knights are looking good going into tonight's game against the Trojans, and not by accident. Johnson is beating teams handily and because North Hall (1-0) has only one game under its belt and is playing at Johnson, I think the Knights will win but the game will be great.

I feel as though horns of some sort should lead me into these next comments because they are about the heated and always-interesting rivalry that is Gainesville-East Hall.

The girls game should be out-of-control good, the boys game should be as per usual good.

Sada Wheeler, Jessica Blackwell and Sonata Chester (the Lady Vikings' seniors) will come into the game ticked off about their loss to Chestatee, and if I know coach Joey Rider he has spent the past few practices reiterating to his troops just how angry they should be.

However, I have said it before and after seeing them first-hand Friday night I am going to say it again - the Gainesville girls are good and will be ready.

It bodes well for the Gainesville boys that they are playing in a pattern this year. After every game they've lost, they've won the very next one. They just lost one to Chestatee, so the odds are good that they will have a good showing, especially with the added adrenaline.

Not boding well for Gainesville, East Hall just lost its first area game in umpteen years.

Personally, I can't wait to watch.

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