Thursday May 26th, 2016 7:07AM

'Quiet' Lady Falcons let play do their talking

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter
FLOWERY BRANCH -- As a speaking group, the seniors on the Flowery Branch girls basketball team are about as talkative as someone with a mouth full of peanut butter.

That's because they have let their play on the court do all their talking for them this season.

Tavia Sykes, Jacy Ramey, Marissa Ivey, and Dani Lacko have sparked the Lady Falcons to their best start in school history (10-0) and now have their sights set on something bigger: winning the Lanierland Tournament for the first time since 2003.

"That's really just one of our goals," Sykes said after much prodding as they prepared to take on defending tournament champion East Hall Thursday in the semifinals at the Gainesville High gym.

"Basically, we're just kind of quiet and don't really talk much, except to each other," Lacko said. "We just try to stay focused on playing."

Flowery Branch coach Hazel Hall said they have been like that for much of the four years the group has been together on the Lady Falcons roster. But despite the low-key demeanor, Hall knew she had something special with this group.

"The quietest group I've ever had. It's hard to get anything out of them sometimes," she said. "They didn't start as freshmen but I could tell that they had some talent. But when they were sophomores they really took off, especially after we made the state tournament."

The Lady Falcons that year (2010-11) went just 10-20, but demonstrated what was to come when they pulled off three consecutive upsets in the Region 8-AAAA tournament to grab a No. 2 seed despite finishing next to the bottom in the regular season standings. They followed that up with tough overtime loss to Mays in the first round but the seeds were sown.

"That was a very unexpected run considering how we had played during the season," Hall said. "But they decided they wanted to show what they could do and played great in the tournament. It carried over to last year."

"We just didn't want it to end that year," Sykes said. "We felt we were better than the record showed."

Last season, as juniors, they went 20-9 despite battling a variety of injuries that limited them to just six regulars playing consistently down the stretch.

"They played through a lot of adversity and somehow they won 20 games," Hall said. "By the time we got to Rome [a 62-45 loss in the first round of the state tournament] they were just out of gas. It was hard to feel disappointed because they showed the kind of character they have as a group. They never quit."

Hall said it's obvious that the experience of the last couple of seasons has been a big factor in their early success this season.

"I noticed a change on the first day of practice," she said. "They came in ready to play and more focused than usual. I could see they wanted to have a great season."

So far, the focus has been unmatched in the area. They have won by an average of 19.3 points a game, and only one game, a 55-46 win over Clarke Central, has been decided by less than 10 points. They are allowing a ridiculously low 34 points a game to this point.

"They are very competitive and hate to lose," Hall said. "They practice hard and play hard. I think that's what drives them."

Another key for the Lady Falcons quick start has been staying healthy and more depth.

"We have everybody available and we have a lot more depth than in recent years," Hall said. "We're playing nine every game and that helps us be stronger at the end."

Sykes leads the offense scoring 18 points a game. Ivey is averaging just over nine points while Ramey is averaging 8.0 points and 8.5 rebounds a contest.

Hall, now in her fifth season at Flowery Branch, said they have their first legitimate shot at winning north Georgia's most prestigious tournament in nearly a decade. And they would like to knock that goal off their to-do list.

"The girls really are the ones that put high expectations on themselves," Hall said. "They said they wanted to win Lanierland, the region, and get back to state. I would love to win it and I think this group can get it done. We'll see."

However, Hall said that despite the perfect start to this point, there hasn't been any loud music parties or loud talking following the wins in the lockerroom.

"They really don't get very excited about winning only because I think they really expect to win every time out," she said. "They're not cocky about it but I think they believe they can beat anybody when they are playing well."

So when pressured, Ivey finally admitted what would excite them in their final season.

"Winning a ring, Nothing else," she said.

That may have said it all. And in just five words.
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