Their first meeting was decided by a last second shot, Friday’s nearly had the same outcome.
Despite outscoring Flowery Branch 28-3 in the first quarter, Gainesville needed a second-half spurt to hold off the Falcons for a 76-71 win and sole possession of first place in Region 7B-AAA.
“We dug ourselves too big of a hole in the first quarter,” Falcons coach Duke Mullis said. “I’m proud that we showed a no-quit attitude, we could have easily wilted and quit.”
With the way Gainesville (11-8, 5-1 Region 7B-AAA) started the game, quitting would have been understandable.
Behind the play of Blake Sims and George Manomano, the Red Elephants jumped out to an 11-0 lead, which they built to 25 at the end of the first quarter.
“We knew we had to come out quick,” said Sims, who scored 24 points and had four steals and four assists. “We knew if we came out fast we’d be able to win.”
Manomano, who scored eight first-quarter points, finished the game with 20 points and seven rebounds.
The fast start was keyed by nearly flawless shooting from Gainesville, which missed only three shots in the first eight minutes. Flowery Branch (10-8, 4-2) on the other hand, couldn’t buy a basket, as the Falcons made only two field goals in the first quarter.
“We really came out with a lot of intensity and enthusiasm,” Gainesville coach Todd Cottrell said. “It was fun to watch.”
What wasn’t fun to watch was the second quarter, as Flowery Branch used eight trips to the free throw line to get back in the game, making 16-of-19 attempts in the period and cutting Gainesville’s lead to 12 heading into the half.
“They were able to score with the clock stopped and that helped,” Cottrell said.
The halftime speech by Mullis helped even more.
“I just challenged them to not try and get it all back at once,” Mullis said. “All the things we should have done from the start, we did in the second half.”
Those things included playing tight defense and getting the ball to their best shooter, Josh Barrett.
After a layup by Brian Whelchel cut the deficit to 10, Barrett launched a long 3-pointer from the top of the key to cut the once 25-point lead to seven points. Barrett finished with a game-high 29 points, including five 3-pointers. Whelchel finished with 12 points, while Ishmael Hollis added 13 and Phillips Chau 11.
Gainesville responded with a 13-2 run to take the lead back to 20, but Barrett made sure his team would not get blown out.
The senior sharpshooter led the Falcons on a 15-0 run to end the quarter, including scoring the final 10 points of the period himself.
“Josh Barrett was phenomenal,” Cottrell said.
As was Sims, who made a critical 3-pointer seconds after a technical foul on Gainesville’s coach cut the lead to three points.
“We felt peaceful,” Cottrell said of his team’s mentality as Flowery Branch chipped away at the lead. “The poise and focus was there and we were able to answer any run they had.”
That focus was crucial down the stretch, as Flowery Branch was once again able to get within four points with less than two minutes remaining. But big defensive rebounds by Brock Boleman (six rebounds) and A.J. Johnson (eight rebounds), as well as a fine dribbling display by Sims that cut 30 seconds off the game clock allowed Gainesville to hold on for the win.
“It’s a big win for us,” Sims said. “But we’re going to come to practice Monday and work even harder, like we’re in last place.”
Flowery Branch will be forced to rebound quickly from the loss, as the Falcons visit Loganville at 7:30 tonight. Gainesville visits West Forsyth at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Gainesville girls 53, Flowery Branch 31
Behind two 17-point quarters in the first half, the Lady Red Elephants built a 15-point lead and cruised to a win Friday in Gainesville.
Jaymee Carnes scored 18 points and Kiki Thompson added 11 to lead the Lady Red Elephants (12-7, 6-0 Region 7B-AAA).
Gainesville controlled the game with its defense, forcing 18 turnovers and blocking eight shots, including three by senior Mikalyn DeFoor.
This was the third win over Flowery Branch this year for Gainesville, which has now won six of its last seven.
The Lady Falcons (6-12, 2-4) were led by Clare Tyler, who scored 13 points.
Flowery Branch visits Loganville at 6 tonight. Gainesville visits West Forsyth at 6 p.m. Tuesday.