The Gainesville girls basketball team fought off a late Chestatee run to escape with a 52-42 win Saturday afternoon in the first round of the Lanierland Tournament at North Hall High.
After a third quarter in which Gainesville outscored Lady War Eagles 12-3, the Lady Red Elephants (2-1) led by 11 with four minutes remaining in the game and seemed to be in control.
Chestatee (1-4) went on an offensive surge, though, that pulled it within four.
Not to be denied, Gainesville’s seniors stepped up. Taylor Ricketts hit a deep 3-pointer and Kiki Thompson hit two clutch free throws to seal the victory.
"Senior leadership is really important in a game like this," Gainesville coach Manson Hill said. "We got a big shot from Taylor (Ricketts) and Kiki (Thompson) had big (defensive) stops.
"We’re lucky to have five seniors that make big plays when we need them to."
With the win, the Lady Red Elephants move into the semifinal round, now being played Thursday, where they will face Flowery Branch at 4:30 p.m. at Gainesville High.
The Lanierland semifinals and finals have been moved up one day, to Thursday and Friday, to allow interested fans to attend Flowery Branch’s state championship football game on Saturday. Games will begin at 4 p.m. each day at Gainesville High School.
A back-and-forth first half ended with Gainesville up by two due, in part, to the inside play of freshman Rebecca Webster, who hit for four straight late in the first half.
"Rebecca is ready to play varsity," Hill said. "Unfortunately she’s playing behind some really good posts.
"She came in though and gave us a big lift."
The Lady Red Elephants were in a position to have the lead at the end of the first half, however, because of the play of junior Jaymee Carnes on both ends of the floor.
Carnes was not only the team’s leading scorer going into the locker room at half (nine points) but also had the responsibility of guarding Chestatee’s best inside player, Peyton Robertson.
And guard her she did, holding Robertson to zero first half points while amassing six blocks and four rebounds.
"Peyton’s (Robertson) the best post that we play against in our area, maybe outside West Hall’s (Jayla) Moon," Hill said. "So for her (Jaymee Carnes) to do that was big."
Carnes finished as the game’s leading scorer with 16 points, eight rebounds and seven blocks.
Robertson hit for nine points and six rebounds. Chelsea Wilson led Chestatee with 13 points.
Lakeview boys 79, Flowery Branch 63
Lakeview got contributions from 10 players, including a game-high 23 by senior Tyler Ward, en route to a first round upset of Flowery Branch on Saturday night at North Hall.
"(Lanierland) is a big challenge for our guys," Lakeview coach Seth Vining said. "All of Hall County is here and I’m really proud of our guys.
"I thought they excepted the challenge real well."
The win marks the third straight year that the Lions have made it into the Lanierland semifinals. They will face Johnson, a team they beat to reach the semifinals two years ago, at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Gainesville High.
Lakeview had the hot hand to start the game, hitting for 42 points in the first half. Ward was the hottest of them all, going for 21 points in the first half, including five 3-pointers.
"I watched our guys warm up and put a sign in the locker room that said, ‘7:15 a.m. shooting until we get it down,’" Vining said. "They got it down and we had a lot of guys contribute."
The Lions’ defense was also stout, and didn’t allow Flowery Branch to get closer than eight points through three quarters.
"A goal of the seniors was to get to the championship game and we’re one step closer," Vining said.
Lakeview also got double-digit contributions from Haughton Carswell, who finished with 17 points and Brett Armour, who had 12.
Flowery Branch was led by Ishmael Hollis with 17 points, Josh Barrett with 16 and Barrett’s brother Zach, who had 15 points.
Flowery Branch will next play Chestatee at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in the consolation round at North Hall.
Flowery Branch girls 31, West Hall 22
Kristy Harper led Flowery Branch with 10 points in its win over West Hall on Saturday night in the first round of Lanierland.
The Lady Falcons move into the semifinal round, where they will face Gainesville at 4 p.m. Thursday at Gainesville High.
With the game tied at 11 at halftime, the Lady Falcons held the Lady Spartans to two third-quarter points to ensure the win.
West Hall was led by Jayla Moon, who had nine points and eight rebounds.
The Lady Spartans return to action in the consolation round, where they will play Lakeview at 7 p.m. Tuesday at North Hall High.
Johnson boys 71, Chestatee 62
Devaris Finch led Johnson with 26 points in the Knights’ 71-62 win over Chestatee on Saturday in the first round of the Lanierland Tournament.
Tre Dudley contributed 10 for the Knights.
Johnson will play Lakeview in the Lanierland semifinals at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Gainesville High.
Up only two at the end of the third, Johnson outscored Chestatee 19-12 in the fourth quarter to get the win.
Chestatee was led by Branden Jovaag’s 22 points, Brandon Smith’s 16 and Jackson Chandler’s 11.
Chestatee next plays Flowery Branch at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at North Hall High in the consolation round.