GAINESVILLE - If the Gainesville High girls basketball team got graded for its performance this week, the Red Elephants certainly earned an "A" after picking up two wins over top 10-ranked Class AAA opponents.
Seventh-ranked Gainesville (10-3) rounded out its sweep through the crossover portion of the Region 7-AAA schedule with a 64-47 win against No. 9-ranked North Hall (9-3) Friday night at North Hall. With the win, the Lady Red Elephants finished the crossover schedule with a 6-0 record and as a result earned any tie-breaker advantage necessary at season’s end.
Their win on Friday night put the finishing touches on a week that began with a win against No. 6-ranked Gilmer 47-35 Tuesday night in Gainesville. It’s the third straight top 10-ranked opponent that Gainesville has faced after losing to Buford (Class AA) during Christmas holiday.
"Any time you can beat two top 10 players in a week in huge," Gainesville coach Manson Hill said. "Our team came out and played with good energy tonight."
The Lady Red Elephants coach hopes that their strong play can carry over to the final regular season stretch for the playoffs. Gainesville begins the Region 7B-AAA schedule when it visits Pickens on Tuesday night in Jasper.
Gainesville took control of its game against North Hall early thanks to the aggressive play of sophomore post Jaymee Carnes, who sparked a 7-0 run to start the game with two quick baskets, a blocked shot and an assist on a basket by Taylor Ricketts. Carnes got the best of the matchup inside with North Hall senior post Letiecia Davenport, who finished with a team-high 15 points, but was hampered with the flu.
"We knew we wanted to start out fast tonight," said Carnes, who finished with 19 points, 12 rebounds, and two blocked shots.
Defensively, she helped force the Lady Trojans into bad shots and turnovers inside with her ability to get her hands on the ball and force the ball back outside.
Ricketts, a junior, added 11 points. She had a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter, and another in the third quarter that extended Gainesville’s lead to 43-32. Gainesville’s Kiana Glasper finished with nine points and eight assists, and Kiki Thompson scored 12.
"We knew it was going to be tough with Letiecia sick," North Hall coach Debbie Blake said. "But we’re not going to use that as an excuse, we needed other kids to step and play tonight.
"It just wasn’t a great defensive game for us tonight."
Despite trailing by double digits early, North Hall kept fighting and got as close as 31-27 with a basket from Ana Porras, followed by a finger roll layup from senior point guard Elizabeth Williams, who finished the game with 12 points and five assists.
North Hall plays host to Buford at 6 p.m. tonight.
North Hall boys 66, Gainesville 64 OT
Friday night’s game had all the trademark signs of a classic North Hall and Gainesville game: Clutch shots by both teams, aggressive play defensively and even a little overtime drama played a part in this one. Gainesville High senior Martin Estes hit a 3-pointer at the end of regulation for the Red Elephants to send the game into overtime.
In overtime, the two teams each took turns hitting baskets and trading the lead back-and-forth with the outcome still up in the air. It was clear neither team wanted to sacrifice this game to the cross-town rival.
"The fans got their money’s worth tonight," North Hall coach Benjie Wood said.
But it was an unsung hero that proved the difference for the Trojans’ cause.
North Hall senior Brannon Nix hit four second half 3-pointers and finished with a team-high 14 points to spark the Trojans. His first two 3-pointers came early in the third quarter and helped preserve a slim 31-30 lead.
"Brannon is a tribute to what can happen if you keep a good attitude," Wood added. "He didn’t play much as a junior, and we told him what he needed to do to get better.
"He kept working hard to get better and never complained."
But Gainesville continued to battle behind key baskets from George Manomano, Gerald Ford and a 3-pointer from Allan Dockery with 12 seconds left in regulation to give the Red Elephants a momentary 57-56 lead.
Estes led Gainesville (6-6) with 17 points. Manomano and Ford each ended the game with 13 for the Red Elephants.
In overtime, North Hall senior Drew Hill hit two key baskets and added a free throw with 10 seconds remaining to preserve the victory.
Andrew Peck scored 13 for the Trojans (8-3) and senior point guard Josh Haymore had 11. North Hall’s Milton Coleman finished with 10 points and 13 rebounds.
North Hall plays host to Buford tonight at 7:30 p.m. Gainesville visits Pickens at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday night.