Thanks to a full-court 1-2-2 trapping press, the ability to sub in five at a time, and a third quarter in which they scored 27 points, the top-seeded Falcons beat Gainesville 82-63 on Saturday night in the first round of the Jackson EMC Lanierland Basketball Tournament.
The Red Elephants came out strong led by senior guard Martin Estes and senior big man Allan Dockery.
In the opening minutes of the game the two combined for 15 points, Estes with five points, two assists and one steal and Dockery with 10 points and looked poised to propel their team to an upset win over the Class AAA No. 6-ranked Falcons.
Dockery finished the game with a team-high 14 points, Estes contributed 11.
As a whole, Gainesville started the game 9-of-14 from the field and jumped out to an early lead only to see Flowery Branch come soaring back on the inside play of junior power forward Izaan Cross.
Cross had seven points in the first quarter and was, aside from the two 3-pointers made by Phillips Chau and Connor Shaw, the lone reason Flowery Branch was down by only three going into the second quarter.
Cross finished the game with 17 points and dominated the boards throughout the game.
Due to a foul-happy first period, the Red Elephants were in the bonus four minutes into the game but were unable to capitalize and push their lead to more than three, going only 2-for-5 from the line.
The Falcons, however, did capitalize when sent to the line and not only crept closer to the lead but tied the game with made free throws by Ryder Stinchcomb and Chau, who was fouled while shooting a 3-pointer and made all three foul shots.
The Falcons first lead of the game, a 27-25 advantage, came when junior guard Josh Barrett hit a 3-pointer from four feet beyond the arc.
Gainesville would roar right back tying it at 27 on a floater by Ty Redmon and taking the lead on a tip in by Ke’Odric Sadler.
The Red Elephants continued to push their lead thanks to a made jumper by Estes, a steal and layup by George Manomano and a 3-pointer from the baseline by Redmon.
When all was said and done, Gainesville had a 10-point lead with less that three minutes to go in the half and looked in control of the game.
The Falcons, however, were just getting started and settling into their press and offense.
Flowery Branch ended the half with suffocating defense which led to Gainesville turnovers and Falcons’ points. They also hit six straight free throws, care of Cross and Chris Lipscomb, bringing them closer to the Gainesville lead.
A tip in by senior guard Tracey Sykes, coming off a Barrett missed jumper, tied the game at 44 and that was the score as the team’s headed into halftime.
The third quarter proved to be the pivotal point of the game, but it didn’t start out that way.
Back and forth the two teams battled for the first two minutes of the second half with Gainesville taking a one-point lead three minutes in.
A made free throw by Shaw tied the score at 51, a rebound and putback by the sophomore guard gave Flowery Branch the lead at 53-51 and it was a lead they would not relinquish for the duration of the game.
Shaw finished with 10 points.
The Falcons began building on their lead after a corner trap caused a Gainesville turnover.
The ensuing possession resulted in a made 3-pointer by Barrett extending the Falcons lead to five.
Barrett finished with 13 points.
Two straight layups by Sykes, one coming off a steal out of the full-court trap, pushed Flowery Branch’s lead to 11.
The Falcons ended the third quarter on a 17-2 run, the final blow coming on a made 3-pointer by Chau at the buzzer ending the third.
Chau finished the game as the third leading scorer for the Falcons with 11 points.
The Red Elephants played strong until the very last minute, getting a fourth-quarter contribution of four points from Sadler and five from Dockery.
Sadler wound up being the third leading scorer for Gainesville with 10 points.
Flowery Branch moves on to play Chestatee in the semifinals of Lanierland on Friday at East Hall High while Gainesville plays West Hall in a consolation game Tuesday at Johnson High.