Loaded with seasoned talent and a unbeaten record to boot, the Flowery Branch girls basketball team has plenty of statements to make this season.
And like it has been all season, the Lady Falcons’ statement was made clear again when they opened the 53rd Lanierland Tournament with a 58-30 win over first-round host Gainesville on Saturday.
The win continues a stellar start to the year for Flowery Branch (9-0), which looks to be a favorite to win the annual Hall County tournament after winning eight of its nine games by a double-digit margin.
“I think our chances are pretty good because our seniors are experienced, and I think that gives us a little bit of an edge,” Lady Falcons head coach Hazel Hall said. “We’ve pretty much done what I expected. Our seniors are in charge of what’s going on, and they’re the ones that we depend on.”
Flowery Branch remains in the championship bracket after leading the entirety of Saturday’s game, and doing so in a relatively wide margin. The Lady Falcons led 26-10 at halftime and maintained full control in the second half, outscoring Gainesville (2-3) 26-6 in the third quarter to take a 52-16 lead into the third and let their younger players take over in the fourth.
The big matinee showing left two Flowery Branch players in double figures, with Tavia Sykes leading the way at 15 points. Freshman Breanna Locke added 10 points for the Lady Falcons.
Gainesville outscored Flowery Branch 14-6 in the fourth quarter and was led by Shakiya Brown’s 11 points. Kaysey Smith chipped in nine points for the Lady Red Elephants.
Flowery Branch returns to Gainesville for the tournament semifinals at 8:30 p.m. Thursday against East Hall. Gainesville moves into the consolation bracket and will play at 5:30 p.m. Friday at North Hall against Lakeview.
“We just have to go out and do the things that we’re supposed to be doing,” Lady Red Elephants coach Brenda Hill-Gilmore said. “We’ve gotten some of the kinks out, but we’ll go through some growing pains.”
NORTH HALL BOYS 77, LAKEVIEW 40: The Trojans scored 46 points in a monster second half to turn a four-point lead at halftime into an easy first-round win over the Lions.
Adam Kelly led North Hall (6-1) with 26 points, 20 of them coming in the second half. He was one of four Trojans to hit double figures, along with Ethan Smith at 15 points, Griffin Olson at 13 points and Avery Cagle at 10 points.
Lakeview Academy (4-5), which cut a 21-13 deficit in the first quarter to 31-27 at halftime, had two 11-point scorers in Austin Montgomery and Zach Montgomery. North Hall advances to the tournament semifinals against Gainesville at 8:30 p.m. Friday at the Trojans’ gym. Lakeview plays a consolation game Friday against Chestatee at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Gainesville.
CHESTATEE GIRLS 48, WEST HALL 44: A second-half rally by the Lady Spartans fell short, as the Lady War Eagles narrowly avoided a first-round upset after leading by 13 at halftime.
Chestatee’s 25-12 lead to start the second half shrunk to 33-31, as West Hall (5-4) used an 11-4 run to jump back into contention for the win. The Lady War Eagles (8-1) responded in the fourth with eight points by Bridgette Kelly late in the contest. Kelly finished the game with 10 points, while Meagan Kenimer scored 14 points and Samantha Brown added 11 points, including three 3-pointers. Kaelyn Gaddis led West Hall with 11 points.
Chestatee moves into the semifinals and will play North Hall at 7 p.m. Thursday at Gainesville. West Hall plays in a consolation game against Johnson at 4 p.m. Friday at North Hall.
WEST HALL BOYS 58, FLOWERY BRANCH 55: The Spartans rallied from a 54-39 deficit with 3:44 left to play for a nail-biting first-round win over the Falcons.
Tyswon Cantrell scored seven consecutive points to close the deficit, including a pair of free-throws with 23 seconds left that put West Hall (6-3) up by one. Cantrell and Deandre Peoples each scored 15 points, while Hunter Atkinson chipped in 10 points. Flowery Branch (1-9) was led by Jamaad Stephens, who scored 16 points. Nick Wayne added 13 points and Brett Shepherd tallied to for the Falcons. West Hall heads to North Hall at 7 p.m. Friday for a semifinals game against Johnson. Flowery Branch is back at Gainesville Thursday to face East Hall for a consolation game at 4 p.m. Thursday.
NORTH HALL GIRLS 65, JOHNSON 22: The Lady Trojans charged out of the gate, scoring the game’s first 16 points en route to an easy win.
Jordan Nix led the way with 14 points for North Hall (6-1), which led 44-7 at halftime and 62-11 at the end of three quarters. Katie Sayres had 13 points, and Sydney Cleveland added 10 for the Lady Trojans, who will face Chestatee in the semifinals at 7 p.m. Thursday at Gainesville.
Johnson (0-9) was led by Bridgette Johnson’s six points and will face West Hall in the consolation round opener at 4 p.m. Friday at North Hall.
JOHNSON BOYS 85, EAST HALL 60: Four Knights scored in double figures as Johnson seized an 18-point halftime lead and never relented.
Montrell McKenzie scored 19 to lead the Knight (9-1), who took control with a 30-point outburst in the second quarter. Ty Cockfield added 18 points, and Carter Cagle and James Hodge each scored 16. Brian Edwards led all scorers with 27 for East Hall (1-4), while Hayden Chapman had 14. Johnson returns to the court at 7 p.m. Friday against West Hall in the semifinals at North Hall. East Hall will meet Flowery Branch in the opening consolation round at 4 p.m. Thursday at Gainesville.
EAST HALL GIRLS 54, LAKEVIEW 41: Chelsea Dale sank five 3-pointers and finished with 19 points to push the Lady Vikings (4-3) past the Lakeview.
The Lady Lions (4-5) led after one period, but East Hall took the lead and the second quarter and never gave it away. Aleyah Hendrix score 11 for the Lady Vikings, and Jatasia Bailey had 10.
Taylor Handte and Katie White each scored nine to lead Lakeview.
The Lady Lions will face Gainesville in the opening consolation round at 5:30 p.m. Friday at North Hall. East Hall will take on Flowery Branch in the semifinals at 8:30 p.m. Thursday at Gainesville.
GAINESVILLE BOYS 80, CHESTATEE 69: The Red Elephants scored the first six points of the second half to break a 36-36 tie and maintained a slim advantage until gaining some separation in the fourth quarter.
Shaquan Cantrell scored 25 and Luke More had 23, as the Red Elephants (1-4) picked up their first win of the season. Chase England added nine a day after helping the Gainesville football team win the Class AAAAA state championship. He was the only football player to dress out; others are expected to return to action next week. Gainesville will face North Hall in the semifinals at 8:30 p.m. Friday at North Hall.
Jordan Degraff sparked a fast start for Chestatee, hitting four 3-pointers in the first quarter and finishing with a team-high 15 points. Ryan Barnes added 12, Keelan Passmore score 11 and Justin Jones scored 10 for the War Eagles (2-5), who face Lakeview in the opening consolation round at 5;30 p.m. Thursday at Gainesville.
Brent Holloway contributed to this report