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Lanierland: Flowery Branch, Gainesville girls reach finals
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Flowery Branch’s Heather Moore keeps the ball away from North Hall’s Chloe Barrett during the Lanierland semifinals on Monday at Chestatee High School. - photo by Jared Putnam

Winning her team’s ninth straight game in a row was pretty cool, according to Flowery Branch’s freshman guard Lexie Sengkhammee.

Earning a championship berth in her first ever Lanierland tournament?

“It’s definitely very special,” Sengkhammee said after her 22-point performance in a 66-57 semifinal win against North Hall (6-6) on Monday afternoon at Chestatee.

The freshman made all six of her free throws down the stretch to ice the win that keeps the Lady Falcons undefeated in the month of December. 

Flowery Branch (11-1) will take on Gainesville for the 2014 Lanierland title at 7 p.m. tonight at Chestatee High.

Lady Falcons coach Hazel Hall’s team last earned a spot in the Lanierland title game in 2012, when the team fell to Chestatee.

The result never seemed to be in doubt during the opening quarter when Flowery Branch shot out to a 24-11 lead behind the hot shooting of Sengkhammee and Breanna Locke (13 points) who made three field goals apiece.

Sengkhammee continued to find success behind the arc, hitting two of her four treys before the half, while junior forward Locke made plenty of room in the paint for easy scores.

The pair combined for 23 of Flowery Branch’s 38 first-half points.

“We’ve known for a long time how good (Lexie) is,” Hall said. “She makes our kids look silly in practice, with all the fakes and misdirection she can throw at them.”

Determined to drag her team back into contention, North Hall’s Sadie Cleveland (20 points) turned up the heat after the halftime break.

The freshman guard burst into the paint for a layup, made a steal, then converted under the basket again to highlight an 11-point quarter and cut the Flowery Branch lead to 10.

Following the offensive burst, Flowery Branch’s defense transitioned to man-to-man, and would hold North Hall without a field goal for nearly four minutes.

“We’ve had flashes of where we can be really good,” Hall said. “But we have yet to really put four quarters together. We’re waiting for that.”

Cleveland suffered a sprained right ankle while defending a Locke layup with 5:18 to go in the fourth. North Hall coach Kristi House said after the game that the team will monitor her recovery.

Lady Trojan guard Taylor Anne Kelley stepped up in Cleveland’s absence to score eight of her team-high 21 points in the fourth. Her acrobatic layup cut the Falcon lead to eight with 1:55 left.

But Sengkhammee was cool under pressure each time she stepped to the foul line and sank all six of her free throws to keep North Hall at bay.

“We had some really good support,” Sengkhammee said. “We were playing together, not being selfish and I’m just happy to be a part of that.”

GAINESVILLE GIRLS 53, EAST HALL 40: Shikiya Brown, Taylor Hawks and Breana Fair helped the Lady Red Elephants (7-5) take control by building a 34-20 halftime lead. The Lady Vikings would never draw closer than a seven-point game the rest of the way.

Gainesville will face rival and fellow Region 8-AAAAA foe Flowery Branch (11-1) in the Lanierland championship at 7 p.m. today at Chestatee High. The Lady Red Elephants will be going for their second consecutive Lanierland title.

"Our kids were really focused and went out and did their assignments," Gainesville coach Brenda Hill-Gilmore said.

Brown tallied 14 of her game-high 21 points in the first two quarters, including a personal 7-0 run that broke an 8-all tie.

Hawks had eight of her 13 points in the first half, and Fair scored six straight points late in the second quarter to help break the contest open.

East Hall cut it to 41-33 entering the fourth quarter before Brown produced a basket, a steal and a layup in the span of a few seconds to quickly push it back to a 12-point margin.

Jenny Edwards paced the Lady Vikings (7-4) with 12 points, and Kylah Mize added nine.

"We couldn't get over the hump," East Hall coach Justin Wheeler said. "We couldn't turn turnovers into points. We weren't playing really well on offense."

East Hall faces North Hall in the 4 p.m. third-place game at Chestatee.

CHESTATEE GIRLS 31, WEST HALL 29: Chestatee’s Brooklyn Popham found senior Tyler Bennett in the low post with 30 seconds remaining for a game-winning layup to stave off a late West Hall rally Monday morning and earn a spot in the final game of the Lanierland consolation bracket.

The War Eagles held off a feisty Spartan squad that tied the game when Anna McKendree got the hoop and harm to knot the game at 29-all with just over two minutes remaining.

But West Hall missed four foul shots in the final two minutes, allowing Chestatee (8-6) to escape with a narrow victory.

Chestatee opened up a 20-15 halftime lead before West Hall’s Meaghan Kelling scored five of her team’s eight third quarter points to keep the visitors in contention.

Both teams were matched shot for shot to open the crucial fourth when McKendree’s shot gave West Hall the first tie of the game. But Bennett was right underneath the basket when Popham threaded her pass through to the senior shooting forward.

West Hall got to the foul line twice in the final minute and a half, but McKendree and Kelling were unable to make their shots to retake the lead.

Chestatee will play Lakeview Academy today at noon in Chestatee’s gym.

The Lady Spartans (3-7) have dropped seven of their last eight games, including five away from home.

LAKEVIEW ACADEMY GIRLS 65, JOHNSON 45: The Lady Lions rode overwhelming runs in the first and third quarters to rout Johnson (3-8) Monday afternoon and earn a berth in the fifth-place game of the Lanierland consolation bracket.

Lakeview (7-4) opened the game by scoring nine unanswered field goals, including three 3-pointers, and ended the first eight minutes up 26-4.

The Lady Knights fought back in the second with a 12-3 run of their own with five different scorers, but Lakeview’s Hanna Grogan (22 points) scored eight consecutive points to spark a 14-0 revival that ended the third and quashed any hopes of a Johnson comeback.

Emma Martin added 11 points for the Lady Lions, while senior Sarah Williams led Johnson with 20 points.

Lakeview Academy will play Chestatee today at noon in Chestatee’s gym.

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