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Vikings claim first Lanierland title since 2007
North Hall’s Kanler Coker drives to the basket with East Hall’s Joshua Hampton guarding during the first half of Thursday night’s Lanierland Basketball Tournament boys championship game at the West hall gymnasium.

OAKWOOD — Joe Dix couldn’t have asked for a better start to the 2010 Lanierland finals.

The East Hall Vikings built a 14-0 lead midway through the first quarter and never looked back in their 76-43 win over North Hall on Thursday.

The win gives East Hall its 24th Lanierland championship and marked the sixth time in the tournament’s 51-year history that both programs from East Hall won Lanierland in the same year.

“We just talked about executing the game plan,” said East Hall coach Joe Dix, who captured his first Lanierland title since 2007. “We talked about defending the 3 and preventing offensive rebounds. North Hall is one of the best offensive rebounding teams I’ve played.”

The Vikings (6-2) executed that game plan to perfection, as the Trojans shot 30 percent (6-for-20) from 3-point range. East Hall also controlled the rebounding game and held a 42-29 edge in that category. Sterling Bailey, who scored 10 points, had 17 of those 42 rebounds for East Hall.

“He’s been big all year,” said East Hall’s Kymon Woods, who scored a game-high 17 points and was named Lanierland MVP. “We expect that type of game from him. That’s what he does.”

With Bailey controlling the paint, East Hall capitalized on a lot of open looks that allowed it to shoot 50 percent in the first half and 45 percent for the game. The Vikings, who also got 17 points from Joshua Hampton, made 8-of-19 3-pointers and had assists on 13 of their 26 field goals. Seven of those assists came from Dre Perry, who also had four points and five rebounds.

“I didn’t foresee this, I’ll tell you that,” Dix said. “I was waiting for the other shoe to drop and for North Hall to make a comeback.”

The closest North Hall (6-2) got came following a Preston Smith 3-pointer that cut the deficit to eight points. But the Vikings went on an 23-2 run to close the second quarter and take a commanding 45-16 lead at halftime.

“We weren’t worried about the runs,” Woods said. “We just kept trucking and not worrying about the score.”

Using a tight zone that prevented North Hall from getting any open looks from the outside, the Vikings built a 36-point lead midway through the third quarter to put a stamp on their convincing win.

The win was a stark contrast to the Trojans’ 3-point win earlier this year at East Hall.

“We were able to keep them from getting offensive rebounds and we shot the ball a lot better,” Dix said of the difference between the two games. “We did a great job of knowing where some folks were.”

The same couldn’t be said for the Trojans, who turned the ball over 23 times and saw four Vikings finish in double figures, including Hayden Chapman, who finished with 11 points on 3-of-5 shooting from 3-point range.

North Hall’s leading scorer was Chris Barnes, who scored eight of his 10 points in the second half when the game was out of reach.

Next up for East Hall is a trip to Spartanburg, S.C. where it will play in the Upward Classic starting Tuesday. North Hall plays Alpharetta at 4:30 p.m. Monday in the Hooch Holiday Classic at Chattahoochee High.

GAINESVILLE BOYS 63, FLOWERY BRANCH 39: Shaquan Cantrell’s two fourth-quarter dunks were high-percentage shots, but the way Gainesville was shooting, so was everything else.

The Red Elephants made 11 3-pointers through the first three quarters and shot 41 percent from beyond the arc for the game en route to a win over Flowery Branch in Thursday’s third-place game of the Lanierland Tournament.

Playing without their coach , who will miss two games due to his ejection against East Hall on Wednesday, the Red Elephants (8-3) made seven first-half 3-pointers to build a 31-9 lead. Three of those seven 3-pointers came from senior Quan Holcomb, who finished with a game-high 12 points. Cantrell, who was one of seven Gainesville players to make a 3, finished with 11 points. Javez Warren hit three 3s and finished the game with nine points and five assists.

The 3-point shooting and stifling defense impressed Gainesville assistant coach Antoine Whelchel.

“Anytime you can hold a team in single digits in the first two quarters is impressive,” Whelchel said. “We hit a few shots early and that gave us some confidence. The shots just started falling.”

Flowery Branch, however, missed its first 13 attempts from 3-point range and the Falcons didn’t score from beyond the arc until Jaleel Bailey hit his first of three fourth-quarter 3-pointers. Bailey finished tied with Byron Keith for team-high nine points.

The lack of scoring from the Falcons was in large part due to the defense of Gainesville, which forced 27 turnovers. The defensive intensity was on display late in the game when Mike Norman dove for a loose ball despite leading by 30.

“That’s the way coach Cottrell taught them to play,” Whelchel said. “They knew coach Cottrell wasn’t here because he was fighting for them.

“They showed a lot of heart and did a lot of things that won’t show up in the scorebook.”

Gainesville is off until Jan. 4 when it visits West Hall. Flowery Branch plays in the North Gwinnett Tournament starting Tuesday.

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