With first place in the subregion on the line, the Gainesville Red Elephants played Tuesday night’s game against West Hall like it was a playoff game.
After walking out of the gym 62-51 victors, and combined with Flowery Branch’s 55-51 loss to Johnson, the Red Elephants (15-8, 8-2 Region 7B-AAA) won the subregion title and need only one win in next week’s Region 7-AAA tournament to secure a berth in the state tournament.
“It was one of our goals to win the subregion,” said Gainesville first-year coach Todd Cottrell after finding out his team won the subregion. “Any time you only have to win one game to get to the state tournament as opposed to two is a good thing.”
Leading the way was senior George Manomano, who scored his 1,000th career point in the first quarter and ended with a game-high 23 points.
“It was surprising,” Manomano said of eclipsing the 1,000-point mark. “I was just focused on winning.”
That mentality was evident early, as the senior guard’s back-to-back 3-pointers sparked a 10-0 run to end the first quarter.
While that 10-0 run put Gainesville ahead early, the Spartans (19-5, 5-4) answered with a 6-1 run to start the second and give them a two-point lead. But with the game tied 20-20, Gainesville closed the half on a 5-0 run to regain the lead.
“Gainesville is real tough defensively,” said West Hall coach Warren Sellers. “They didn’t let us get into the flow offensively.”
One player who was able to succeed on offense was senior Kavon Williams, who scored a team-high 21 points and used his ability to knock down 3-pointers to keep the game close.
After Rodney Gibson hit two free throws to tie the game 31-31, Williams hit a pull-up jumper from 15 feet out to give the Spartans their first lead since the score was 18-16. After a Brock Boleman three-point play gave the Red Elephants the lead, Gibson, who scored 12 points and had five rebounds, made a free throw to tie the game at 34. But from then on, it was all Gainesville.
With outside shooting and a tough inside presence, the Red Elephants outscored West Hall 18-6 between the end of the third and midway through the fourth to take a commanding 52-40 lead.
Manomano scored seven of those 18 points during the run, and ultimately sealed the win and subregion title with a put back off his own miss to put the Red Elephants ahead by 14, their largest lead of the game.
“Luckily we able to make a couple runs and build a lead,” said Cottrell, whose team had 16 offensive rebounds in the win. “Both teams knew how big this game was. I was pleased with our effort and execution.”
His coaching counterpart was not as pleased with his team.
“This is the first time all year we didn’t play hard enough to win,” Sellers said. “Overall the effort wasn’t there.
“Gainesville played hard and we didn’t,” he added. “I’m very disappointed in the effort.”
West Hall concludes the regular season with a trip to East Hall at 8:30 p.m. Friday, while Gainesville will take the floor for the first time as subregion champs when it plays host to Johnson at 8:30 p.m. Friday.
Despite clinching the subregion title, Cottrell said his team won’t overlook the Knights.
“Friday’s our last home game and I know Johnson will be ready to play,” he said. “This time of year, the players know what’s going on. They can see the benefits of the win and I don’t think any coach is going to have to say much to their team to get them motivated.”
Gainesville girls 61, West Hall 22
Using a 26-2 run from the midway point of the second quarter through the end of the third, the Gainesville Lady Red Elephants ran away with a win Tuesday against West Hall.
Jaymee Carnes led four Gainesville (14-9, 9-1 Region 7B-AAA) double- digit scorers with 12 points. Rebecca Webster added 11 points and Madison Strickland and Mikalyn DeFoor each scored 10.
Gainesville outscored West Hall (8-15, 2-7) 32-5 in the second half and recorded 18 steals in the game. Keela Griffin led the Red Elephants with five steals and Mikalyn DeFoor had four, including back-to-back steals in the second quarter to cap a 10-0 Gainesville run.
The Lady Red Elephants, who were wearing pink socks and ribbons in honor of breast cancer awareness, committed just four turnovers compared to West Hall’s 25.
Emily Hammond and Bailey Soucie led the Lady Spartans with seven points apiece.