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Gainesville boys defend Lanierland title with dominant win over West Hall in championship game
LANIERLANDBOYSCHAMPS
Members of the Gainesville boys basketball team pose with the Lanierland trophy after beating West Hall 75-52 in the championship game on Monday, Dec. 30, 2019 at Cherokee Bluff High School in Flowery Branch. - photo by Nathan Berg

The Gainesville boys basketball team had not won a game on the season coming into Lanierland, but that didn't stop the Red Elephants from tearing through the competition, winning all three of their matchups by double-digits, culminating in a 75-52 victory over West Hall to defend their Lanierland title.

After the game, members of the team held up four fingers in representation of the four straight tournament wins the Red Elephants have had at Lanierland. 

"You definitely don't want to be the team that breaks that streak," tournament MVP Datavian Buffington said.

The teams exchanged baskets a few times to start the contest, before a 3 from Eli Pitts set off a quick 11-0 run that put the Red Elephants on top by 10 early. Pitts pushed that lead even higher at the two-minute mark of the frame, hitting from three feet beyond the arc at the top of the key to incite cheers from the Gainesville bench and supporters. 

Not much changed with the arrival of the second quarter, as the Red Elephants started things off on a 12-1 spurt that put them on top by over 20. West Hall showed brief signs of life with a run of 8 straight points as Gainesville went a bit cold during the middle portion of the frame, but a 3 from Lake Shelton put the Red Elephants back up by 19. 

Gainesville finished the half off with a ferocious one-handed dunk from Walt Dixon that caused the Red Elephant faithful in the crowd to explode into cheers and put Gainesville up 42-21 at the break.

The second half was more of the same, as Gainesville gradually pushed its lead higher and higher. During a quick flurry in the middle of the third quarter, Ced Nicely and Dylan Bobga combined to score 6 points in under 30 seconds as West Hall struggled to even advance the ball past half court. 

The Spartans made a bit of a run toward the end of the fourth quarter, scoring 9 straight on a couple of quick buckets from Quincy Holcomb, but it was already too little, too late, as Gainesville cruised to the win. A one-handed dunk off a steal from Donsha Gaither put the exclamation mark on a dominant Red Elephant win.

Though it's been a much maligned start to the year for a Gainesville team that struggled through the early portion of the season. Red Elephants head coach Chuck Graham said the win should be a catalyst for a group that is starting to find its stride at the right time.

"I'm happy for the guys, because they kept believing in what we were doing," Graham said. "They never wavered. I think this tournament right here will be a springboard for us going into region play."

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