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Lanierland: Gainesville, Johnson make it 2 unbeatens in finals
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Gainesville’s D’Marcus Simonds drives into the paint while surrounded by a trio of East Hall players during the Lanierland semifinals on Monday at Chestatee High School. - photo by Jared Putnam

A pair of undefeated teams will battle for the Lanierland boys basketball championship.

With Gainesville already safely into the finals with a 69-42 victory against East Hall earlier in the night, the Johnson Knights pulled away for a 66-45 victory against host Chestatee in Monday’s nightcap to earn a matchup with the Red Elephants.

The championship is set for 8:30 p.m. today at Chestatee High.

Ty Cockfield scored 16 of his game-high 21 points in the first half for Johnson (11-0), and Roderick English produced 11 of his 15 points, including a trio of 3-pointers, in a decisive third-quarter barrage for the Knights.

Even though it was a win, Johnson coach Jeff Steele found plenty of room for improvement for the Knights.

“I’m happy we won, happy we’re in the finals. It should be a good atmosphere,” Steele said. “But we’re going to have to play a whole lot better than we did tonight or it’ll get ugly.”

Johnson, which will go for its second straight Lanierland title, built an early 20-6 edge before the War Eagles battled back behind free throw shooting to cut it to 27-22 late in the first half and 32-24 at halftime.

But English’s 11 third-quarter points ignited a 16-2 run to start the second half.

“We had a great third quarter because it got ugly in here at halftime,” Steele said. “So that’s what won it.”

Steele is excited about the matchup of the county’s two unbeaten teams.

“We’re going to have to play well,” Steele said. “We’re going to have to be mentally tough, mentally ready and see what happens. It ought to be fun.”

Jordan Pulliam led Chestatee (8-5) with 14 points, and Hunter Creamer pitched in seven.

War Eagles coach Chad Pittman said he was pleased with his team’s resiliency in the first half, but the second half disappointed him.

“In the second half I felt like we rode a roller coaster with too many lows and not enough highs,” Pittman said.

He said the championship matchup should be a good one.

“Gainesville, it’s waves of kids. When (coach) Benjie (Wood) subs, they don’t lose much,” Pittman said. “I think Steele, his (team’s) quickness and athleticism will be real important because I think with Ty and his guard play, they probably can handle a lot of the pressure. It’s just can you do it for 32 minutes. I’m not sure he’s as deep as Gainesville. It’ll be a fun game to watch, for sure.”

Chestatee hosts East Hall at 5:30 p.m. today in the boys third-place game.

GAINESVILLE BOYS 73, EAST HALL 47: The Red Elephants’ lead was 39-30 early in the third quarter before a 17-4 spurt to close the period broke things wide open. D’Marcus Simonds scored eight of his game-high 20 points in the second quarter as Gainesville (12-0) built its lead from 12-10 to 35-23 by halftime.

K.J. Buffen added 19 points for the Red Elephants, with Jermaine Fleming chipping in 10 points and Luke Maddox and Sam Carpenter adding seven apiece.

Gainesville coach Benjie Wood said not much changed in the second-quarter surge other than the results.

“We just continue to do what we do,” Wood said. “We had a lot of shots go in and out in the first quarter, and we just told the guys to just continue to do what we do. Some shots started falling. Some things started falling our way.”

Jacquen Hopkins paced the Vikings with 13 points, and Tylor Brown pitched in nine. Kyvon Davenport scored seven points for East Hall (8-2).

“He’s a heck of a player,” said Wood of Davenport. “He was the first guy we wanted to find when he came down the court, and I was proud of the kids. I thought they did a great job.”

East Hall coach Joe Dix said Gainesville’s defense turned the game in the second quarter.

“They came up with some deflections and some steals, turned it into easy baskets,” Dix said.

LAKEVIEW BOYS 53, NORTH HALL 39: Lakeview Academy’s Tae Turner shook off an aggravated right ankle injury to sink two crucial 3-pointers in the third quarter to lift Lakeview past North Hall Monday morning and put the Lions (7-3) in the final game of the consolation bracket.

Turner (13 points) fell to the court clutching his ankle early in the third while guarding a Harrison Harper layup, but returned to the game minutes later to score an off-balance prayer from outside the arc to end the quarter and cap a Lakeview 8-2 run.

Two treys by Carson Heinen and Sam Jackson, combined with an Evan Easton layup, cut an early Lakeview lead to four in the second quarter, but Turner hit a 3 himself on his first possession back on the court with 50 seconds left in the half.

His buzzer-beater, the result of a busted pick and roll, put Lakeview up by 10 at the half.

North Hall (6-6) was held to just two field goals while Lakeview racked up 10 in the fourth quarter.

Heinen finished with 12 points for the Trojans, while Easton and Brock Wingo each chipped in eight.

Lakeview will play Flowery Branch today at 1:30 p.m. at Chestatee.

FLOWERY BRANCH BOYS 50, WEST HALL 41: An 11-0 hot streak to start the second half proved to be the difference Monday afternoon as the Falcons held off a late West Hall rally to earn a place in the fifth-place game of the Lanierland consolation bracket.

Up by six at the half, the Falcons had four unanswered field goals from John Mills (16 points) and Taylor Bourdage (10 points), including three straight treys to open up a 15-point lead in under three minutes.

By the middle of the fourth, the Spartans had fought back to cut the deficit to five, but a floater by Hunter Konuszewski, combined with eight team free throws, gave the Falcons the needed cushion to pull out the win. Flowery Branch (6-6) will play Lakeview today at 1:30 p.m. at Chestatee.

Junior Esteban Ulloa gave West Hall its first and only lead of the night when his second quarter 3 fell in from long range.

But Mills accounted for 11 of his 16 points in the pivotal third that gave Flowery Branch an 8-point lead.
West Hall (2-8) managed just nine points in the fourth in its third straight loss.

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