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Tuesday May 24th, 2016 7:30PM

Basketball: Red Elephants storm past Knights

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
OAKWOOD -- After several close victories, the Gainesville boys basketball team showed on Tuesday what it can be like when the Red Elephants start to fire on all cylinders.

Relying on a suffocating defense and fast-break scoring, Gainesville overwhelmed Johnson in the second half en route to an 80-46 win in Oakwood.

"We're getting closer to what we want to be," said Red Elephants coach Todd Cottrell, still in the midst of his first season at Gainesville. "But we've still got a long way to go, which is exciting because of how good we can be."

The Red Elephants (10-7, 4-1 Region 7B-AAA) couldn't have looked much better just before and right after halftime, as they used a 23-2 blitz to turn a 17-14 lead into a 40-16 runaway.

Many of the baskets during the run -- which started midway through the second quarter -- came as a direct result of Gainesville's defense and rebounding, as turnovers and quick outlet passes led to easy lay-ups. For the game, the Red Elephants recorded 25 takeaways.

"We got some of that in the first quarter, but we didn't always convert," Cottrell said. "We also started to take care of the ball tonight, and that made a big difference."

With the ball in the hands of point guard Blake Sims Gainesville was a constant scoring threat -- but not in the usual way for the Red Elephants' second-leading scorer, as Sims dished out six assists and rarely put the ball in bad positions.

George Manomano scored a game-high 22 to lead 12 different Red Elephants in the scorebook -- nine of Manomano's points came during the third quarter, as Gainesville put the game out of reach. Nick Johnson also scored 12, while Juwon Jeffries added 11. And Sims scored nine -- seven in the first quarter.

The Knights (10-8, 2-3) tried to respond to the Red Elephants' big run, getting a 3-pointer from Chris Henry and a three-point play from Devaris Finch to pull within 42-26 with 2:18 left in the third quarter. But Gainesville continued to find easy baskets and regained a 51-29 lead at the end of the third quarter.

Devaris Finch scored 14 to lead Johnson, while Quintavious Cheek added eight.

Cheek sparked the Knights early, scoring all eight of his points in the first quarter on two 3-pointers and a pair of free throws. The baskets kept Johnson within striking distance after Gainesville opened with an 8-0 run.

The Red Elephants tried to pull away again early in the second quarter, pulling ahead 17-8 on Ty Redmon's 3-pointer. But Brandon and Devaris Finch rattled off six straight points between them to bring the game to 17-14 with 6:41 left in the half.

Then Jeffries and Manomano answered with back-to-back baskets and the Gainesville tidal wave was on.

"We feel a little blessed tonight that they didn't shoot the ball well," Cottrell said. "But we played pretty well and really executed well in the second half. We also rebounded really well between Nick [Johnson] and A.J. [Johnson]."

Gainesville will look to avenge its only subregion loss of the season on Friday night when Flowery Branch travels to meet the Red Elephants.

"At this point in the season the most important game we play is always the next game on the schedule," Cottrell said.

Johnson, meanwhile, will look to bounce back against East Hall at 8:30 p.m. Friday in Oakwood.
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