GAINESVILLE — Gainesville High’s lone senior Abby Musselwhite was prepared to play in Saturday night’s Region 7-AAA title game as part of a program that has played for the region crown the past 12 seasons in a row.
The only thing Musselwhite wasn’t accustomed to was the overwhelming happiness that she felt after this year’s game.
The Red Elephants outscored visiting North Hall 18-9 in the first quarter en route to winning the region title 50-36 on Saturday night at Gainesville for the program’s first title since 2004.
“I’m so thankful for all of my teammates, we all worked so hard,” Musselwhite said. “As a senior I kind of had a timeline in my head of wanting to win the region title.
“I was in the eighth grade the last time that Gainesville won the region title, so this is an amazing feeling.”
The battle for the region title was won inside by Red Elephant sophomore Jaymee Carnes who finished 25 points and eight rebounds. Taylor Ricketts also stepped up big for the Red Elephants hitting four 3-pointers and finished with 12 points.
“Jaymee works so hard and is willing to do whatever it takes to win championships,” Gainesville coach Manson Hill said.
One of the Red Elephants’ keys to victory was minimizing the impact of North Hall senior point guard Elizabeth Williams who finished the game with five points and fouled out in the fourth quarter.
“We tried to single and double cover Elizabeth all night,” Hill said.
North Hall’s only scorer in double-digits was senior post Letiecia Davenport with 25.
Just looking at historical context, the Red Elephants are in good shape heading into the Class AAA state playoffs.
The Region 7-AAA champion has advanced to the state semifinals each of the past seven seasons. And in seven of the past 13 seasons, the state champion has come out of Region 7-AAA.
“It just shows if you’re good enough to win this region, you’ve got a chance to go far,” Hill said.
“This region we play in is so competitive,” Musselwhite added. “There aren’t any bad teams here.”
With the win, the region champion Red Elephants will play host to the Westminster/South Atlanta loser for the first round of the playoffs at 6 p.m. Saturday night.
No. 2 seed North Hall plays host to the Westminster/South Atlanta winner on Saturday night to open the playoffs.
East Hall girls 56, Gilmer 40
Sada Wheeler helped the Lady Vikings (20-6) secure the third spot in the Region 7-AAA tournament and also the No. 3 spot in the Class AAA state playoffs with 12 points, 13 rebounds and five assists on Saturday night in Gainesville.
Jessica Blackwell hit five 3-pointers for the Lady Vikings and finished the game with 17 points. Tierra Benton finished the game with six points and six rebounds for East Hall.
“We responded well after a disappointing loss (Friday) night,” East Hall coach Joey Rider said. “I was glad to see that we didn’t just fold it up.”
East Hall took control of the game by outscoring the Lady Bobcats 14-6 in the third quarter. “We played with passion tonight and that was fun to see,” Rider added. “Hopefully that will add some spirit to our practice this week.”
Sarah Jones led Gilmer with 15 points and Kylie Smith added 14.
With the win, East Hall visits the Blessed Trinity/Dunwoody loser to open the playoffs Saturday night. Gilmer is now the No. 4 seed to state from Region 7-AAA and plays the Blessed Trinity/Dunwoody winner next weekend.