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Players, coaches equally anticipate Lanierland Tournament
First-round games Wednesday at North Hall High
Flowery Branch High's Taniyah Worth, right, grabs a rebound while teammate Lexie Sengkhammee, left, boxes out Buford's Marissa Bruce during the second half of the Falcons' Friday night loss to the Wolves at the Flowery Branch gymnasium.

When: First-round games Wednesday

Where: North Hall High School

Tickets: $7

Games: Lakeview Academy girls vs. North Hall: 9:30 a.m.
Lakeview Academy boys vs. West Hall: 11 a.m.
Chestatee girls vs. Gainesville: 12:30 p.m.
Johnson boys vs. North Hall: 2 p.m.
West Hall girls vs. East Hall: 3:30 p.m.
Chestatee boys vs. East Hall: 5 p.m.
Johnson girls vs. Flowery Branch: 6:30 p.m.
Gainesville vs. Flowery Branch: 8 p.m.

The longest-running high school basketball tournament in Georgia is about to add another chapter to its storied history.

The Lanierland Tournament, which features boys and girls brackets of eight teams from Hall County and the surrounding area, will tip off its 57th installment at 9:30 a.m. today at North Hall. Semifinals and finals will move to Gainesville High on Thursday and Friday, and games from each round begin at 9:30 a.m. each day of the tournament.

Seeds for this year’s Lanierland were determined by each team’s finish in the tournament last season. The Flowery Branch boys and girls teams hold the No. 1 seeds in 2016 after they both won their respective events last year.

One of the tournament’s most anticipated matchups pits the Falcons against undefeated Gainesville, the top-ranked team in Class AAAAAA, in today’s closing contest. The Red Elephants were automatically given the No. 8 seed because they did not participate in last season’s tournament due to a team suspension.

As the state’s oldest tournament opens its newest edition, players and coaches from participating teams explained what makes Lanierland so special to them.

CHESTATEE GIRLS COACH WEB DANIEL: “It brings out the whole community. The people that have seen games before, they come back to watch the games being played. That makes it really special for Hall County and the whole city of Gainesville. Just to play in front of the people, it’s so special.”

EAST HALL BOYS COACH JOE DIX: “It’s a long tradition here, and this tournament has been built up over the years. And the other thing is all the county schools are in different classifications now and don’t always get to play each other. That’s what makes it so special.”

EAST HALL GIRLS SENIOR KYLAH MIZE: “It’s the oldest tournament around and everybody loves to see great athletes play. This is the biggest crowd at any school that we’ll have all year to play in front of. It’s just a great thing to be around after Christmas.”

FLOWERY BRANCH BOYS SENIOR JOHN MILLS: “To be involved in this big tournament is a big deal because of all the people that show up and stay for all the big games. It means a lot to play in front of a big crowd. You don’t find a crowd like that anywhere else other than big tournaments like this.”

GAINESVILLE BOYS JUNIOR BAILEY MINOR: “I’ve had a lot of family members play in it. My whole family has grown up around it. My dad went to North Hall, and a lot of my friends played at North Hall. It’s an old tournament, and it’s an honor to be a part of it.”

LAKEVIEW ACADEMY BOYS COACH TODD COTTRELL: “It’s a great tournament with lots of tradition: the longevity of this tournament and the local rivalries. All the schools know each other. It’s a great atmosphere. The tradition of basketball in Hall County has been really good. There have been so many great teams — boys and girls — since when this tournament started until now.”

LAKEVIEW ACADEMY GIRLS SENIOR HANNA GROGAN: “You play local teams, and that brings us all together in one environment. We’re a bunch of schools in Hall County and Gainesville, Flowery Branch and close by, and it’s just an opportunity to bring us all together and compete with each other. It’s just a fun event.”

NORTH HALL BOYS SENIOR EVAN EASTON: “It’s a pretty special thing, knowing that people are taking their time — even with midday games at 2 p.m. or 4 p.m. — to drive wherever they need to and fill in a gym. Even if they have to stand at the top and don’t even get a seat, they’re still willing to watch and support teams. That makes it really special when there’s that amount of people coming out no matter what, just to come watch.”

NORTH HALL GIRLS COACH KRISTI HOUSE: “Usually all the former players from the Hall County area are home from college, and even when they’re grown up and have jobs, everybody always seems to make a point to come home and watch some Lanierland.”

WEST HALL BOYS SENIOR XZAVIER REID: “It has a lot to do with the bragging rights and the atmosphere, with everybody in the county coming together and just having fun. We’re playing against some of our friends, so it’s basically friends versus friends, and whoever wins has bragging rights for the year.”

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