The Gainesville girls basketball team won a rollercoaster of a back-and-forth contest Monday morning to start the 61st annual Lanierland tournament with a 50-45 victory over Cherokee Bluff. The Lady Red Elephants went down by double-digits in the first quarter of the game, but rallied from there and eventually iced the game by holding the Lady Bears to just 2 points over the final four minutes of the contest.
“We played hard throughout the game,” Gainesville coach Alan Griffin said. “I’m very proud of the intensity we played with. It’s such a big game. The kids love Lanierland. They get up for it. It is their biggest game on the schedule before the region tournament. … I’m just so dang proud of how they came through at the end and executed under two minutes.”
Lauren Teasley scored 12 to lead Gainesville offensively, while Timber Gaither contributed 11 for Cherokee Bluff.
The Lady Red Elephants got off to a hot start in the game, scoring the first 8 points of the opening quarter and kept the Lady Bears off the scoreboard for the first three minutes of the contest.
But Cherokee Bluff turned things up from there, picking up a couple key layups from freshman Kaitlin Cook as well as 3s from Gaither and Ella Freeman. The Lady Bears finished the frame off on a 22-4 run that gave Cherokee Bluff a 10-point lead eight minutes in.
Still, the Lady Red Elephants refused to back down.
Sadie Roach began the second quarter with an early 3 that set off an 11-0 Gainesville run to give her squad a 1-point advantage at the midpoint of the second quarter. A pair of 3-pointers from Taylor Click right before the half got the Lady Bears back in front, but their once double-digit lead had evaporated to just a point by halftime.
Gainesville kept up the heat in the third frame, getting a couple of key layups from Teasley and holding Cherokee Bluff to just 8 points in the third frame to reclaim the lead for the first time since early in the first quarter. Alexis Austin hit a pair of free throws at the end of the period to give the Lady Red Elephants a 2-point lead going into the fourth.
Gainesville kept up the blanketing defensive performance in the fourth quarter, again holding the Lady Bears to just 8 points and keeping them to one made field goal over the final four minutes of the game.
With the win, Gainesville will take on the winner of North Hall and West Hall in the Lanierland semifinals tomorrow.