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Holston, Sokol power Flowery Branch to school's first Lanierland title
Tournament MVP Gabe Holston leads Falcons with 15 points in 62-56 win over East Hall
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Flowery Branch's John Mills, right, dribbles around East Hall's Andy Lara, left, Wednesday during the boys championship game at the Lanierland basketball tournament at East Hall High School.

Boys All-Tournament Team

Carson Heinen – North Hall

John Mills - Flowery Branch

Evan Pitts – Lakeview Academy

Andrew Sims – Johnson

Markese Jackson – East Hall

Donovan Hernandez – Chestatee

Dylan Curry - West Hall

Sportsmanship award: Andy Lara - East Hall

MVP: Gabe Holston - Flowery Branch

David Sokol’s Christmas gift reminded him just how stressful Flowery Branch’s win over East Hall was at the Lanierland title game Wednesday at East Hall High.  

It didn’t even seem real for the coach until the final horn blared, with the Falcons securing a 62-56 win over the Vikings on their home court to earn their first Lanierland championship.

“My Fit-Bit here on my wrist said I’ve got a 110 for my heart rate,” said Sokol. “I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep tonight.”

Few fans in attendance could blame him. The Falcons (9-5) led by as many as 10 points early in the third quarter, but had to hold on late as East Hall sank 10 of its 12 fourth-quarter free throws to close the lead to three with less than two minutes left ont eh clock.

But Flowery Branch’s Luke Mills knocked home all four of his shots from the foul line, and the Falcons defense held the Vikings (8-4) to just two field goals in the final two minutes of the game.

Gabe Holston led the Falcons with 15 points, while Mills and Brannon Clark both added 14 apiece in a balanced effort.

Markese Jackson led East Hall with 16 points, while Tylor Brown had 15 and Luke Cooper knocked in 11.

Holston, the tournament MVP, scored nine points in Flowery Branch’s most critical run. Trailing 15-11 after the first quarter, Holston collected four layups to take the lead, including an and-1 opportunity that gave the Lady Falcons their first significant lead.

“You’ve gotta make it happen,” said Holston. “I want to be a leader on this team and be someone they can depend on. We had our minds right that we could come in ready to play. We’re on the incline.”

Flowery Branch had a lead of 48-38 with 5:36 left in the fourth, but East Hall’s Cooper and Jackson both sank clutch treys to cut the lead to just three to 54-51 soon after. The deficit could have been cut further, had Andy Lara not been called for a travel on the left edge.

Three different Vikings attempted long-range shots in the final minute of play, but all fell short as Mills’ free throws were enough to ice the victory.

Sokol, who took over the Flowery Branch program three years ago, said the experience of winning the tournament felt hard to grasp.

“Everyone from outside the county, they know how big this is,” he said. It’s big for everybody. It’s nice when you have multiple guys who defenders need to guard. Gabe hasn’t led us in scoring except in the last two games, so he’s really stepped up when we needed him.”

NORTH HALL BOYS 73, WEST HALL 61: The Trojans used a 25-point third quarter to erase their halftime deficit and secure third place at the Lanierland tournament Wednesday at East Hall High.

North Hall’s Evan Easton and Carson Heinen combined for 48 points, and Easton earned his second straight double-double performance in the victory.

Dylan Curry led West Hall with 28 points, while Xzavier Reid and Tyquan Statham combined for 22 points for the fourth-place Spartans.

Trailing 37-30 at halftime, the Trojans outscored the Spartans 25-8 in the third quarter, supported by four 3-pointers between Heinen, Harrison Harper and Brandon Williams.

North Hall led by as much as 16 with three minutes gone in the fourth quarter, and West Hall was unable to get within 11 down the stretch.

West Hall led 26-16 after the first quarter, and Curry scored 22 of his points in the first half.

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