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High school basketball: Further Lanierland changes made after recent rise in COVID-19 cases
North Hall's Sam Gailey (4) is guarded by Cherokee Bluff's Garrett Harbuck (12) during Tuesday's game in Gainesville. Photo by Bill Murphy

Nothing is the same in 2020. 

Not even Lanierland, the staple of high school basketball for nearly 60 years in Hall County. 

Due to a recent surge in positive coronavirus cases and out of an abundance of caution for everyone involved, the country championship tournament Dec. 28-30 will be played all three days at Gainesville High. 

No fans will be allowed to attend, but a live stream will be available through the National Federation of State High Schools website, as well as coverage by local radio stations. 

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On Monday, Hall County Schools announced that tickets for regular games would be limited to two per player. 

For one year, Lanierland will not look the same. But county and city schools administration have worked tirelessly to make sure the players still get on the court.

“Everything boils down to safety for the players and coaches,” Gainesville High athletics director Adam Lindsey said. 

“I think the initial reaction, by some, will be that (Lanierland) won’t be the same without the fans and crowded gym,” Lakeview Academy boys coach Tyler Sanders said. “But, at the same time, I’m in favor of whatever it takes for the kids to be allowed to play in the Lanierland. As a Hall County native, I know it’s important for Lanierland to continue. Plus, these older kids have had a rough nine months and we want them to be able to get this opportunity.”

The first changes to the tournament were made Dec. 8 when it was announced that the first two days of games would be on the gym floor of the higher seeded team. 

However, surges — locally and nationwide — made it prudent to make further adjustments to Lanierland, the state’s longest-running basketball tournament. 

“With everything that’s going on, I’m just happy we’re still playing,” East Hall girls coach Justin Wheeler said. “I’m disappointed that there won’t be any fans allowed in the gym. That’s what makes Lanierland so exciting. The seniors, this is their last Lanierland so that’s tough that their parents and family won’t get to see them play.”

First-round games will run all day on Dec. 28. Semifinals will be on Dec. 29. Championship and third-place games will be held on Dec. 30.

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