at Flowery Branch High
Lakeview girls vs. North Hall, 4 p.m.
West Hall boys vs. North Hall, 5:30 p.m.
East Hall girls vs. Gainesville, 7 p.m.
East Hall boys vs. Flowery Branch, 8:30 p.m.
While the Gainesville girls are the defending Lanierland Tournament champions and the No. 2 ranked team in Class AAA, the North Hall girls might be the team to beat in the 50th annual Lanierland Basketball Tournament.
The reason the Lady Trojans might be the team to beat is that nobody’s done it yet.
“We’ve played well the first few games,” said second-year North Hall coach Bryan Richerson. “The girls have worked extremely hard and the payoff for them is being undefeated.”
North Hall (4-0) started its season with a three-point win over Hart County, then came wins against Oconee County and Jefferson.
The Lady Trojans are in the Lanierland semifinals for the second time in three years thanks to a 65-33 win against Johnson in the tournament’s first round.
“I believe we’re capable of winning it,” said Richerson of his youth-driven team that consists of one senior, three juniors and five sophomores.
“But we have to play defense, rebound and shoot the ball well, which are three things we’ve been doing of late.”
The Lady Trojans are averaging 58 points per game thanks in large part to the play of leading scorer Mary Kate Rushton, who had 18 points in the win against Johnson, and fellow sophomores Sarah Paschall and McKenna Rushton.
“The girls have matured so much in a year from top to bottom,” Richerson said. “That’s the biggest thing I’ve seen so far.
“They understand what I expect out of them and it’s really a tribute to their hard work and dedication to this program.”
North Hall will face Lakeview at 4 p.m. today in the first of four semifinal matchups at Flowery Branch High.
The Lady Lions (2-1), in stark contrast to North Hall, are led by seniors Maddie Haymore, Louisa Jacobs and Megan Rochester.
“Lakeview’s a well-coached team and defensively we’re going to have to come to play,” Richerson said. “We’re still a young and relatively inexperienced team and we’re going to have to play near perfect from here on out.”
Lakeview beat West Hall 37-31 in the first round to advance to the semifinals.
Haymore led all scorers in the game with 16 in the win.
In the other girls’ semifinal, storied programs and perennial powerhouses East Hall and Gainesville will battle for the right to play in the finals.
The Lady Vikings (2-1) beat Chestatee 43-32 to make it to the semifinals while Gainesville (2-3) beat Flowery Branch 45-34.
East Hall is led by sophomores Jasmine Jenkins, who had 11 points in the first-round win, and Morgan Jackson, who along with senior Dorreka Faulkner was the team’s leading scorer with 12 points against Chestatee.
Gainesville, who beat the state’s then No. 1-ranked Carrollton 49-38 to open the season, is led by none other than senior Jaymee Carnes, who recently signed a letter of intent to play basketball for Wake Forest.
Carnes, who Richerson noted was “hands down the region’s best player,” had 17 points and 19 rebounds in Gainesville’s win against the Lady Falcons.
Sophomore Rebecca Webster has also been a strong force inside for Gainesville up to this point in the season. She’s the second leading scorer on the team and had eight points and 13 rebounds against Flowery Branch.
On the boys’ side, West Hall will take the second step in defending its Lanierland title – which was the first for the Spartans’ program – when it faces North Hall at 5:30 p.m. today.
The Spartans beat Lakeview 56-53 to advance to the semifinals while the Trojans bested Johnson 60-52.
West Hall (5-1) is led by junior Jarquise Young, who had a game-high 20 points against Lakeview, 15 in the first half, and Shunquez Stephens (15 points against Lakeview). Senior Chase Syfan (12 points against Johnson) has proven to be the catalyst thus far for the Trojans.
In the other boys’ semifinal, East Hall will take on Flowery Branch at approximately 8:30 tonight.
The 10th-ranked Vikings (2-1) beat Chestatee 78-43 to advance to the semifinals. East Hall no doubt will be looking to start another Lanierland winning streak after its most current streak of six-straight titles ended last year.
Flowery Branch is led by senior center Ishmael Hollis who had 38 points in the Falcons 68-67 first round win against No. 4 Gainesville.