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Girls basketball: Gainesville storms back and nabs OT defeat of Branch

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
GAINESVILLE -- At halftime of Tuesday's game against Flowery Branch, Gainesville girls basketball coach Brenda Hill-Gilmore was far from concerned.

Even though her team trailed the Lady Falcons 25-12, the Lady Red Elephants coach told her team she was "confident" they would bounce back.

Thanks to a dominant third quarter and a determined overtime effort, Gainesville did just that, prevailing 50-45 at home.

"I told them just to trust in their defense and trust in their teammates," Hill-Gilmore said. "That tells you about their character. They knew they couldn't hold their heads down and that they had to go out there and play."

The Lady Red Elephants (6-1, 5-1 Region 8-AAAAA) clamped down on defense after the interval, forcing 10 turnovers during the third quarter -- takeaways that they more often than not turned into offense, outscoring the Lady Falcons 24-2 in the third quarter.

Flowery Branch did not wilt under the pressure, however, outscoring Gainesville 13-4 in the fourth quarter -- including Kylah Mize's jumper that knotted the score at 40-40 with six seconds remaining and forced overtime.

The Lady Red Elephants surged back ahead in the extra frame thanks to a three-point play from Taylor Hawks and a 3-pointer from Kaysey Smith to take a 46-41 advantage that they would not yield.

"It was my fault we ended up in overtime; I stopped being aggressive when we got the lead late, but they kept fighting and came up with a win against a good team," Hill-Gilmore said.

Hawks finished with a game-high 14 to lead Gainesville, while Paisley Lee added 10 -- including back-to-back 3-pointers at the start of the third quarter that helped set-up the Lady Red Elephants fightback.

Hawks and Sophia Jackson also hit key baskets in the run, as Gainesville held Flowery Branch without a field goal in the third quarter.

Yet Mize, Breanna Locke and Kiara Knight combined to help the Lady Falcons stage their own comeback, each sinking baskets to extend the contest.

Mize finished with 13 points for Flowery Branch, while Locke and Knight each put up 10 points.

Mize and Knight combined for 15 points in the first half (eight and seven points, respectively), as Flowery Branch cruised to the early advantage -- the Lady Red Elephants managing just four field goals in the first half.

Yet as Gainesville did in the second half of its opening round Lanierland win over East Hall, the Lady Red Elephants turned things around after halftime.

"We're a second half team," Hill-Gilmore said.

Gainesville will look to keep up its winning ways at 8:30 p.m. Friday in the Lanierland semifinals at Lakeview Academy against Chestatee.

Flowery Branch will look to bounce back against West Hall at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the consolation bracket at Flowery Branch.
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