FLOWERY BRANCH -- The Gainesville boys basketball team is still in the learning curve with new head coach Benjie Wood, but the Red Elephants showed on Saturday that they have firmly grasped one of the coach's edicts:
Rebound the basketball.
Gainesville grabbed 40 boards to Lakeview's 21 to help erase a halftime deficit and pull out a 89-80 victory in the first round of the Lanierland tournament at Flowery Branch High.
The Red Elephants (2-4) proved especially aggressive in the second half, going on an 11-2 run midway through the quarter to take a lead that they would never relinquish.
"I thought our second half effort was tremendous," Wood said. "Rebounding was an emphasis for us for the whole game, and I thought that played a huge role for us."
J.D. Sosebee also stepped to the fore after the interval, scoring 10 of his team-high points in the third quarter to help Gainesville surge ahead 57-48 with 4:08 left in the period. Lakeview responded to pull within 57-55, but Jay Gaudlock, Cedric Bryant and Sosebee each combined to establish a 67-57 advantage at the start of the fourth quarter.
"JD tweaked his Knee (Friday night), and I didn't even know if he'd be able to play," Wood said. "But me told me before the game that he was ready to go, and he was huge for us."
Bryant added 13 for Gainesville, while Rodney Lackey and Luke Maddox each added 12.
Kirk Schneider paced Lakeview with 21 points, including 16 in the first half, as the Lions charged to a lead that grew as large as six points. Paul Avery's lay-in made it 34-28 Lakeview with 6:16 left in the first half, but the Lions could not add more breathing room despite taking a 46-43 advantage into the interval.
Joshua Randolph finished with 14 for Lakeview, while JB Britte added 10.
The Lions fell into the consolation bracket, where they will take on Flowery Branch at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Lakeview Academy.
Gainesville, meanwhile, will take on Johnson at 7 p.m. Thursday at Flowery Branch.
NORTH HALL 71
Chestatee outscored North Hall 28-10 in the fourth quarter to rally for the win.
Joey Scheman hit back-to-back 3-pointers midway through the fourth quarter to give the War Eagles (3-6) their first lead, 69-68, since the first quarter. Chestatee would force eight North Hall turnovers in the quarter and then hit 6-of-10 free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
"We didn't shoot very well and didn't play very good defense but somehow we stayed within striking distance," Chestatee coach Gary Barnes said. "I thought we did a very good job in the fourth quarter. We hit some shots and made some stops. I'm very happy for the guys. We're finally in the winner's bracket!"
Chestatee trailed 61-49 going into the final period but used a 10-1 run to open the quarter, capped by a 3-pointer from Ryan Barnes. The Trojans would extend the lead to 66-60 on a pair of free throws by Harrison Lovell but the War Eagles would take control with a 12-2 run for a 72-68 lead with 1:05 left.
Chestatee was 20-of-31 from the free throw line, including 13-of-20 in the fourth quarter. North Hall was 18-of-27 for the game, but was just 3-of-4 in the fourth quarter.
The game was back-and-forth in the early going with the two teams trading the lead four times. But the Trojans would make the first run using a 10-0 spurt with five different players scoring for a 17-8 lead.
Chestatee would answer with an 11-2 run in the first and second quarters to tie the game at 19 with 6:41 left in the half. North Hall would respond with a 14-3 run, highlighted by a pair of 3-pointers from Carson Heinen, to pull away for a 33-22 lead.
The War Eagles would close the gap to 35-28 on a 3-pointer by Jordan Stubblefield but the Trojans would eventually take a 38-28 lead into halftime.
Jordan Pulliam led Chestatee with 20 points, including hitting three free throws in the final 14 seconds to ice the game. Scheman finished with 17 points, including four 3-pointers, Hunter Creamer added 14 points, and Stubblefield had 12 for the War Eagles.
North Hall was led by 25 points from Heinen. Brock Wingo added 13 and Lovell had 10 for the Trojans.
JOHNSON BOYS 83
FLOWERY BRANCH 62
Johnson used a 23-8 first half run and a 19-5 second half run en route to a lopsided win over the Falcons.
Flowery Branch's Chris Garcia drained a long 3-pointer to pull the Falcons within 7-6 midway through the first quarter. The Knights exploded for seven straight points and then Ty Cockfield finished the run with a dunk to give the Knights a 30-14 lead.
Johnson would lead 38-20 at halftime but Flowery Branch used a 15-6 run to open the third quarter to climb within nine, 44-35, but Johnson would explode again.
The Knights' 19-5 spurt came in a three minute span and pushed their to lead 67-42 early in the fourth quarter.
Despite the big win, Johnson coach Jeff Steele said there is much work left to do.
"Right now I feel like we're consistently inconsistent," he said. "We'll have stretches where we are explosive and then times when we get lazy and turn the ball over. We still have a lot of work to do to get to where I think this team can be."
The five Johnson starters did the bulk of the heavy lifting for the Knights. Cockfield finished with 20 points to pace Johnson. James Hodges had 16 points, Carter Cagle 13 points, Drew Dunham 12, and Rod English nine or the Knights.
Cody Dewing had 16 points and six rebounds to lead Flowery Branch. Isaac Mize added 12 points, Brett Sheppard had 10 points, and Garcia finished with nine points for the Falcons.
The Knights will take on Gainesville Thursday in the semifinals at 7 p.m. at the Flowery Branch gym.
EAST HALL 72,
WEST HALL 44
For a program like East Hall, going three years without winning the Lanierland tournament is almost unthinkable.
The Vikings showed on Saturday that they are serious about making sure that does not happen.
East Hall opened its inaugural game of the 54th Lanierland bracket on a 14-2 run and never looked back, surging past West Hall 72-44 at Flowery Branch High.
The Vikings (4-3) dominated from start to finish, as Kyvon Davenport blocked four shots inside the first two minutes and watched his teammates hit for three of their seven 3-pointers in the first quarter to spark East Hall.
"That was one of our better performances of the season so far, but we've been getting better and better each game," said Vikings coach Joe Dix, who is looking to lead East Hall back to a Lanierland championship for the first time since 2010. "It's amazing what happens when you shoot the ball. We hadn't shot well in a couple of games, and it made a big difference today."
As did Davenport's presence in the lane. Davenport, who is averaging 19 points and 15 rebounds per game, controlled the paint, racking up seven blocks on top of 11 points.
"That changed the way the lane was," Dix said. "All of a sudden they were kind of looking for him, and I think that changed the way they play inside. He's probably the most improved player in Hall County."
Devin Watson paced East Hall, tying for a game-high 15 points, while Jacquen Hopkins also added 11.
The Vikings maintained control of the contest with a 12-0 run in the second quarter and and an 11-0 run in the third quarter.
Nick Sullens put up 15 points to lead West Hall, while Tyquan Statham added nine.
The Spartans fell into the consolation bracket, where they will take on the loser of the North Hall vs. Chestatee game at 4 p.m. Friday at Lakeview Academy.
East Hall, meanwhile, moves on to face the winner of North Hall vs. Chestatee game at 8:30 p.m. Thursday at Flowery Branch.