With a week off since their last game, the Gainesville Lady Red Elephants could have easily chalked up their sloppy 25-turnover, six-point win over Flowery Branch to rust.
But according to coach Manson Hill, now’s not the time for excuses.
“Right now, we’re trying to find good habits,” Hill said following Gainesville’s 48-42 win over the Lady Falcons on Tuesday at Gainesville High. “We’re not looking for excuses.”
Neither is Flowery Branch (5-5, 2-2 Region 7B-AAA), which forced turnovers on seven of the first eight Gainesville possessions to start the second quarter but couldn’t substantially cut into the Lady Red Elephants’ lead. That was largely due to poor shooting, as the Lady Falcons made just two of their 14 shot attempts in the second quarter.
“We struggle with that at times,” said Flowery Branch coach Hazel Hall, who was without the services of starter Cara Chilton, who was sick. “If Cara had been here that would have helped, she is an excellent outside shooter.”
Making outside shots was a necessity because of Gainesville’s tight zone, anchored by the inside presence of Jaymee Carnes, Rebecca Webster and Kate Callahan.
Carnes, who is verbally committed to Wake Forest, finished with 11 points, 16 rebounds, six blocks and four assists for Gainesville (5-6, 2-1).
“That’s what we need,” Hill said of Carnes’ performance. “Hidden in this season is how good she’s been.”
Despite the senior’s efforts, Gainesville found itself trailing with less than three minutes to go in the third quarter.
After Cash Champion converted a 3-point play to cut the deficit to one point, Flowery Branch’s Chelsea Young hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Lady Falcons a 30-25 lead, their first of the game. Young finished with 15 points on five 3-pointers, while Champion finished with 12. Jessica Harper added seven points, seven rebounds and six assists for the Lady Falcons.
But their efforts weren’t enough and Gainesville responded with a 7-3 run to start the fourth quarter and regain the lead.
“We responded real well to the deficit,” Hill said. “I wasn’t concerned.”
He shouldn’t have been, because Gainesville stepped up its defensive intensity, took care of the ball and went on a 6-2 run over the next two minutes to close out Flowery Branch.
“Coach Hill does such a good job with everything they do and we knew we had to build the lead up a bit,” Hall said.
They couldn’t, and Webster, Carnes and Mikalyn DeFoor keyed the game-clinching run by combining for all eight of the team’s final points. DeFoor finished with a team-high 14 points, despite being saddled with four fouls for the final 12 minutes of the game.
“Each win is big, including tonight’s,” said Hill, whose team will visit West Forsyth on Friday. “Friday’s a big game for us,” Hill said. “A win puts us in a tie for second place and if we have any hopes of getting a No. 1 seed in the region tournament, we can’t afford to lose.”
Neither can Flowery Branch, which has 11 games left to play this month.
“We don’t have time to dwell on this loss,” Hall said.
The Lady Falcons visits Johnson at 7 p.m. Friday.
GAINESVILLE BOYS 61, FLOWERY BRANCH 47: Tough defense and hot shooting led to a 24-point first quarter and a big home win for the Red Elephants on Monday.
Quan Holcomb key the Red Elephants’ hot start by making three 3-pointers and scoring 11 first-quarter points. Holcomb finished with a game-high 18 points for Gainesville (4-7, 2-2 Region 7B-AAA).
Ke’Odric Sadler recorded a double-double for the Red Elephants by scoring 12 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.
Ishmael Hollis scored 13 points for Flowery Branch, which trailed 24-4 after the first quarter and could never cut into the large lead.
Gainesville visits West Forsyth at 8:30 p.m. Friday. Flowery Branch visits Johnson at 8:30 p.m. Friday.