CUMMING — Thanks to a fourth quarter in which Gainesville held Chestatee to only five points, the Class AAA No. 7-ranked Lady Red Elephants were able to beat Chestatee 56-39 and secure a spot in the Class AAA state playoffs and a matchup with the winner of today’s Lumpkin County-Gilmer game in the region tournament semifinals.
Gainesville jumped out to an early 7-2 lead thanks to a Kiki Thompson 3-pointer and layups by sophomore center Jaymee Carnes and junior Hailey Solomon.
The Lady War Eagles stayed within two thanks to a Chelsea Wright 3-pointer from the top of the key as the first quarter buzzer sounded.
Two minutes into the second quarter, Chestatee took its first and only lead of the contest on a 3-pointer by senior point guard Kasey Smith.
The momentum and exhiliration was short-lived however when, on Gainesville’s next possession, Kiana Glasper answered Smith’s 3-pointer with one of her own making it 14-12 in favor of the Lady Red Elephants.
Gainesville went into the half only up by six and that margin was immediately cut at the start of the third quarter on another 3-pointer by Smith and a layup off an Erika Lackey feed by freshman center Peyton Robertson.
Smith finished the game with 10 points while Roberton finished with a team-high 16.
Lackey’s only two points of the game came at the right time, three minutes into the second half, when her layup tied the score at 30.
Once again the Lady War Eagles were unable to build on the momentum due to a quick response by Big Red, this one in the form of a 3-point basket by junior shooting guard Taylor Ricketts.
Late in the third quarter, Gainesville was able to pull away with a slight lead and get a four-point cushion thanks to three straight points by Carnes. The lead would only get bigger from there when, after Chestatee was called for a technical foul, Carnes hit both of the ensuing free throws to give her team a six-point lead going into the final period.
It was in this final period that Gainesville, especially Carnes, shined and Chestatee faltered.
The sophomore center not only gave the Lady Red Elephants their first double-digit lead with a basket and a free throw, but hit for six straight points early in the fourth to give them a 16-point lead.
It didn’t hurt that Chestatee turned the ball over on four straight possessions, and not only fouled the free-throw efficient Gainesville girls on four straight possessons but didn’t foul the Lady Red Elephants hard enough to cause the ball not to go in on three of the four fouls resulting in three straight 3-point plays.
A Carnes layup with two minutes remaining put Gainesville ahead by 20.
Carnes finished the game with 20 points, Glasper added nine on three 3-pointers.
Gainesville will face the winner of the Lumpkin County-Gilmer matchup at 7 p.m. Friday at Gainesville High.