In coach Warren Sellers' own words, it wasn’t pretty, but Lanierland’s defending boys champions from West Hall advanced to the semifinals with a 56-53 win Thursday over hosts Lakeview.
Last year was the Spartans’ first tournament title, and Sellers knows winning a second won’t be easy in a field that features three top-10 teams.
"We’ve got a lot of work to do,” he said. “I was disappointed in our execution and the way we played down the stretch; we just had too many turnovers.”
West Hall advances to the semifinals where it will play North Hall winner at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Flowery Branch. Lakeview heads to the consolation round to play Johnson 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at Lakeview.
After leading by eight points at halftime and the end of three quarters, West Hall (5-1) had to fight to hold off a persistent bunch from Lakeview (1-4).
The Lions had 15 turnovers in the first half, but took better care of the ball late, and chipped away at the Spartans lead by feeding Ross Biegler. The 6-foot-3 senior forward led the team with 18 points on 9-for-12 shooting, including 10 points in a fourth quarter in which he was perfect from the field.
West Hall’s lead was down to one point with two minutes left in the third quarter when Shunquez Stephens went down with an ankle injury that left him writhing in pain and unable to return.
Stephens had kept the Lions at arm’s length in the second half, scoring 13 of his 15 points after halftime, but in his absence, Dre Pou stepped up.
The junior hit a floater, drew a foul and converted the free throw attempt immediately after Stephens’ departure, giving West Hall room to breathe.
With 37 seconds left, Lakeview cut the lead to two on a Biegler lay-up, and had a chance to tie the game in the waning seconds, but a 3-pointer missed the mark and the Lions never regained possession.
“From an offensive standpoint, we had a lot of opportunities we didn’t cash in on,” Lakeview coach Seth Vining said. “I thought our guys played hard, it’s just frustrating when you get that close and don’t get the win. You’ve got to make plays, and in the end, we didn’t make enough.”
The Lions can count five missed free throws in the fourth quarter among those missed opportunities, but in the first half it was the West Hall defense which forced 15 turnovers that put Lakeview in a hole.
Lakeview held a 13-10 lead at the end of the first quarter, but gave away possession 10 times in the second as the Spartans raced to a 29-21 lead at the half.
Jarquise Young led all scorers with 20 points and was West Hall’s catalyst early. The junior guard got 15 of his points in the first half, including a 5-for-5 effort at the free throw line.
And despite his relative displeasure in how they got it, Sellers said he was happy to keep the Spartans’ title defense alive.
“That’s the goal,” he said. “We’ve got a lot a long way to go before we start thinking about that, but now were one step closer.”
LAKEVIEW GIRLS 37, WEST HALL 31: The Lady Lions opened the 2009 Lanierland tournament with a win against West Hall on their home court, thanks to a game-high 16 points from Maddie Haymore.
Lakeview advances to take on North Hall 4 p.m. Thursday at Flowery Branch. West Hall will play Johnson at 4 p.m. Tuesday at Lakeview.
Lakeview trailed 4-2 at the end of the first quarter, but spurred by eight Haymore points, closed the first half on a 14-2 run and held a 19-10 lead at halftime.
West Hall opened the third quarter on a 7-2 run spurred by five points from Bailey Soucie on a pair of deep jumpers, and the Lady Spartans eventually cut the lead to three late in the period.But Louisa Jacobs' short turnaround just before the third-quarter buzzer gave Lakeview a 29-24 lead going into the fourth.
Amber Johnson led the Lady Spartans (3-3) with 15 points, while Emily Hammond had eight. Jamie Nixon and Megan Rochester each had seven for Lakeview (4-1).
NORTH HALL 65, JOHNSON 33: The Lady Trojans heated up in the second quarter and eventually pulled away from Johnson.
Neither offense had much success early, but North Hall (4-0) was able to turn a 9-5 first quarter lead into a 37-22 advantage by halftime. The Lady Knights never got any closer.
North Hall will play Lakeview in the semifinals 4 p.m. Thursday at Flowery Branch. Johnson (1-3) will face West Hall in Tuesday’s consolation round at Lakeview. Tip-off is set for 4 p.m.
Sarah Paschal and Mary-Kate Rushton scored 12 each to lead the Lady Trojans, and McKenna Rushton added 10.
Senior Paige Vaughn led Johnson with eight points.
NORTH HALL BOYS 60, JOHNSON 52: With persistent defensive pressure and a high-energy offense, the Trojans turned a close game into a big lead in the second and third quarters, then held off a late Johnson charge for their third straight win.
North Hall hit four 3-pointers in the second quarter and slowly stretched a two-point margin to a 34-24 lead at halftime.
By the end of three, the score was 52-36.
North Hall (3-1) was led by Chase Syfan’s 12 points. Trevor Ross and Ethan Smith each scored eight.
The Trojans will face West Hall in the semifinals at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Flowery Branch, while Johnson will meet Lakeview in the consolation round, 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at Lakeview.
The Knights (2-3) got as close as seven with less than a minute left in the fourth quarter, but the late push wasn’t enough to overcome North Hall’s wide lead. Johnson’s biggest highlight came in the third quarter when sophomore Ty Odem took a pass outside the 3-point line on the secondary break, dribbled twice, and soared through a crowded lane for an emphatic dunk.
Tre Dudley led the Knights with 18 points. Odem scored 11 and Grant Cagle had 10.