One of the Lanierland tournament’s biggest draws is the chance to watch old rivals compete for the title of Hall County’s top high school basketball team.
The East Hall and Gainesville girls provided such a spectacle Thursday — though Lady Vikings fans left happier than their red-clad counterparts.
Streaky shooting and solid defense lifted No. 6 seed East Hall to a 47-38 win against the third-seeded Lady Red Elephants at Lakeview Academy’s Walters Athletic Center in Gainesville. The Lady Vikings (6-6) clinched a spot in Friday’s semifinal round, an achievement made sweeter by knocking off their cross-town rival.
“We’ve got a friendly rivalry, and it’s always good to come out and win against your rival,” East Hall coach Justin Wheeler said. “These kids know each other and have played against each other for a long time. We’re just thankful we were able to come out and get a win.”
Senior guard Carly Winters scored 17 points for the Lady Vikings and made four late free throws to keep Gainesville (3-4) at bay. East Hall junior center Ashante Peoples had nine points and wrangled several key rebounds down the stretch.
Yet the Lady Red Elephants carried a lead into the second quarter after junior guard Tija Blackwell poured in 11 of her 17 points in the opening period. Classmate Tia Shelton (13 points) nailed a 3-pointer as time expired in the first quarter to put Gainesville ahead 20-14.
It was all Lady Vikings after that, starting with an 11-0 run.
Winters, junior forward Maggie Griffin and junior guard Jenny Lopez drained 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to spark the offense, while East Hall’s defense held the Lady Red Elephants without a field goal for the entire second quarter.
“One thing we did was protect the paint better, and we also got out on shooters a lot better,” Wheeler said. “We kind of lost some of their key players in the first quarter. Did we think they’d keep shooting like they did? No, but it was important for us to close out on them.”
The Lady Vikings held firm in the second half, though Gainesville — which rotated only seven players — cut the deficit to three points when Shelton hit a layup at the end of the third quarter.
But East Hall, normally a perimeter team fueled by the sharpshooting Winters, found some success in the paint in the fourth quarter to create the separation necessary to win.
“It was mostly good defense by (Gainesville),” Wheeler said of the offensive adjustment. “They were guarding our screens and forcing us to slow down and adjust. We had to be more patient with the basketball and what we were trying to do.”
His defense rose to the occasion, too, clamping down to keep the Lady Red Elephants scoreless over the game’s final three minutes.
Now the Lady Vikings will try to punch their ticket to the Lanierland championship game when they face second-seeded West Hall at 3 p.m. today at Flowery Branch High. Gainesville’s consolation game against No. 7 seed Chestatee is slated for 9 a.m.
WEST HALL GIRLS 46, CHESTATEE 42: Anna McKendree racked up a team-high 19 points as No. 2 seed West Hall held off a late charge by the Lady War Eagles in the opening round.
West Hall held Chestatee to single digits for the first three frames, and it even led by as much as 14 midway through the third period before Chestatee began its final push behind senior standout Lindsey Caudell (19 points, five steals). A Caudell floater and Peri Satterfield jumper trimmed Chestatee’s deficit to eight just before the end of the period.
Chestatee’s (4-9) defense mixed in a few half-court traps to generate some pressure and takeaways against last year’s Lanierland runnerup to start the final period. McKendree received her fourth infraction as the Spartans were whistled for three-straight fouls, and the War Eagles capitalized in the closing minutes. The War Eagles racked up seven-straight to make it a three-point game with under three minutes left, then kept it a four-point affair on three occasions before West Hall’s Reagan Horton (11) sunk a pair of field goals to keep the War Eagles chasing.
Caudell contributed to the last-ditch surge, adding her final eight points during a 20-point fourth quarter showing for Chestatee.
After only leading 10-7 after the first quarter, West Hall picked up steam to start the second, opening the second period on a 9-0 run spanning over four minutes. McKendree scored one field goal in the first eight minutes, but found her rhythm by the half with 10 second-quarter points that include back-to-back contested 3-pointers.
The senior guard drained a contested 3 from behind the right wing put the Spartans up 19-7 before Chestatee finally answered with a 3 of its own on the ensuing possession.
Chestatee continues in the consolation bracket with a 9 a.m. tipoff against Gainesville on Friday, while West Hall (9-4) faces No. 6 seed East Hall in the semifinal at 3 p.m. as Lanierland shifts to Flowery Branch.
NORTH HALL GIRLS 53, LAKEVIEW ACADEMY 46: A big second quarter and 22 points from junior Ansleigh Ferguson propelled the fifth-seeded Lady Trojans to a victory in Lanierland’s opening game.
Trailing by five points following the first period, North Hall (6-4) rode an 18-2 surge into halftime and never looked back. The No. 4 seed Lady Lions (5-5) cut the deficit to five in the final minute on a steal and layup by junior forward Sadie Thrailkill (10 points), but the Lady Trojans managed to hold on for a semifinal berth.
North Hall received 10 points from sophomore guard Grace Hollifield and another eight from senior Natalie Nixon. The Lady Trojans will face the winner of top-seeded Flowery Branch and No. 8 seed Johnson in the semifinals at 6 p.m. Friday at Flowery Branch High.
Sophomore guard Maddy Towles paced Lakeview Academy with 14 points, followed by classmate Jackie Allen with 13.
Senior forward Tori Taylor added nine points for the Lady Lions, who move into the consolation bracket with tipoff set for noon in Flowery Branch.
FLOWERY BRANCH GIRLS 62, JOHNSON 23: All 12 of Flowery Branch’s rostered players saw minutes on the floor as the tournament’s top seed made a convincing return to the semifinal game.
Jenna Sutton led all scorers with 18 points, while Ashley Woodrofffe added 14 for Flowery Branch (8-3) behind her senior classmate. Chelsea Reece paced the Lady Knights with 14 points, followed by Jazmyn Gooch with six.
The Lady Falcons’s semifinal clash with No. 5 seed North Hall is slated for a 6 p.m. tipoff Friday in Flowery Branch.