With the game on the line in the closing seconds, Gainesville coach Alan Griffin wanted the ball in the hands of sophomore Keke Jones.
She did just what she was supposed to do, taking the pass in for a layup as the Lady Red Elephants locked up a 58-56 win against North Hall in the Lanierland semifinals on Tuesday in Gainesville.
“That’s a play where we tell her to get open,” Griffin said, still elated from winning a back-and-forth contest. “And she got open.”
With the win, Gainesville will face East Hall for the Lanierland championship on Wednesday. The Lady Vikings won an equally-exciting semifinal game, coming back from a double-digit hole in the fourth quarter Tuesday to beat Chestatee 38-36.
Jones and Lauren Teasley finished tied for a team-high 16 points for the Lady Red Elephants (7-5). Gainesville trailed by 8 at the end of the first quarter and five at halftime, but chipped away steadily in the third quarter to make the win possible.
“That was a lot of fun,” Griffin said, saying he was shaking from excitement after it was over.
In the third quarter, Jones knocked down baskets one minute apart, keeping Gainesville in front by four points going into the final period.
“Our girls decided there in the third quarter that they weren’t going away,” Griffin said. “I give a lot of credit to (North Hall coach) Kristi House. She does a tremendous job with her program and they shoot the lights out.”
However, it was the start of the fourth quarter that put Gainesville in a position to win.
Jones knocked down a basket with 2:40 left to play, putting the Lady Red Elephants ahead 54-50.
However, the Lady Trojans (3-8) were far from finished. Rylee McCall knocked down a 3-pointer with two minutes remaining in the game and Sophie Cleveland hit all three free throws off a foul behind the 3-point line to knot it at 56-56 with just 1:10 left to play.
Despite the tie late, Gainesville’s coach said it didn’t shake his confidence it his girls.
“I knew we had time for a couple more possessions, so I felt okay,” Griffin said.
Kristina Peach scored a team-high 16 points for North Hall. With the loss, it will face Chestatee in the third-place game at 3 p.m. Wednesday in Gainesville.