While the quality of high school basketball in Hall County never wanes, the parity among the 2015 Lanierland Tournament may be as strong as ever. Among the 16 programs and eight schools in this year’s county-exclusive tournament, 10 currently maintain a winning record.
Brackets for the tournament were released Monday by Hall County schools director of communications and athletics Gordon Higgins for the 56th installment of Lanierland. The Johnson boys and Gainesville girls (both back-to-back Lanierland champs) open as the No. 1 seed as a result of winning the tournament title last year. All eight first round games are slated for Dec. 28 at Johnson High, before moving the next day for all remaining tournament games to East Hall.
East Hall girls basketball coach Justin Wheeler said Lanierland is “special,” and that each team wants to win in order to secure bragging rights for the rest of the year.
“It’s a big deal for Hall County,” said Wheeler.
Each side of the bracket has a team currently holding a perfect mark: Gainesville boys (6-0) and Flowery Branch girls (8-0).
However, it’s a wide-open battle in both brackets for a chance to win it all. In the girls bracket, six of the eight teams currently hold a winning mark, while four of the boys teams have a record above .500. Both West Hall programs are at 4-4.
None of the eight first-round games pit two teams from the same region against one another.
The only Hall County program not part of the Lanierland field is Riverside Military Academy.
Two first-year Hall County coaches are also Lanierland tournament veterans as players: Flowery Branch girls coach Courtney Newton and West Hall boys coach Zac Swansey. Both Newton and Swansey played in high school at Flowery Branch.
Seven of the eight schools playing have won at least one Lanierland title in the tournament, started in 1960 by South Hall High principal C.W. Davis.
While the girls side of the Lanierland has varied most in champion (six different schools since 2003), East Hall has won the most on the boys side in recent years (13 of 14 titles between 1994 and 2007).