GAINESVILLE -- It's been seven long years since the Gainesville girls have gotten a chance to play for a Lanierland title.
Coach Brenda Hill felt this could be the year to break the drought. She was right.
A young but talented Lady Elephants aquad smothered Chestatee with a quick, trapping press and used that as the catalyst for a 41-27 win over the defending champion Lady War Eagles in the semifinals Friday night at the Lakeview Academy gym.
"It's been a while," Hill said. "It's great for the program. The girls really responded. We thought we had a chance to get here but knew it would be tough."
Gainesville (7-1) took control of the game in the second quarter holding Chestatee (9-2) to just two free throws while building a 22-10 halftime lead. Chestatee would get as close as 24-19 late in the third quarter but Gainesville closed out the game with a 12-4 run over the final nine minutes.
"We take pride in our press and the girls did a great job of executing it," Hill said. "Taylor (Hawks) stepped up for us but Kayla (Kelly) was amazing on the boards and on defense."
Hawks, a freshman, paced the Gainesville offense with 15 points and dished out five assists. Kelly had nine points to go with five rebounds and four steals.
The key was holding Chestatee to just 3-of-18 shooting from the 3-point line. Bridgette Kelly led Chestatee with 15 points and four assists but worked hard for it. Savannah Long had nine points draining all three of the Lady War Eagles' 3-pointers.
Gainesville will move on to play North Hall for the title Saturday at 7 p.m. at Lakeview Academy.
The Lady Trojans, who drained 12 3-pointers against Lakeview Academy in the other semifinal win, will be a tough test for the Lady Elephants.
"They can really shoot the ball but we're just going to worry about what we do," Hill said. "It should be an exciting game. We're definitely looking forward to it."
The game started slow for both teams as they traded the lead six times in the first quarter as both defenses clamped down forcing five turnovers each. Chestatee would take an 8-7 lead into the second quarter on a steal and layup with 22 seconds left by Bridgette Kelly.
As close as the first quarter was, the second quarter was all Gainesville. The Lady Elephants did not give up a field goal in the quarter and a pair of Bridgette Kelly free throws with 5:48 left in the half to give Chestatee a 10-7 lead was all the Lady War Eagles would get.
They would never lead again.
Gainesville closed out the quarter with a 15-0 run sparked by its defense, which forced four more Chestatee turnovers, to take a 22-10 lead into halftime. The Lady Elephants' Tamia Rucker was seemingly everywhere pouring in nine of her 13 first half points to go with three steals in the second quarter.
Paislee Lee helped start several fastbreak opportunities with five rebounds in the half for Gainesville, which also hit two late 3-pointers after missing its first five of the game.
Chestatee hit its first 3-pointer by Long but missed its last five of the half.
North Hall girls 63
Lakeview Academy 43
North Hall exploded out of the gate running out to a 16-0 lead in the first seven minutes of the game. The Lady Trojans dominated in all phases of the game at the start.
They hit their first six 3-pointers, forced five Lakeview turnovers, and outrebounded the Lady Lions 9-3 in the opening run.
North Hall Coach Kristi House was more than pleased with the quick start.
"We talked about being focused and ready at the start and enjoying themselves," House said. "It was a great start. I wasn't as happy about the lyulls we had when we got the big leads."
Lakeview got as close as 16-4 with back-to-back baskets late in the first quarter but North Hall put the game out of reach with a 9-2 run in the second quarter for a 25-6 lead.
A three-point play by the Lady Trojans' Kensi Gillespie with 29 seconds left in the half gave North Hall a 31-15 halftime lead.
Gillespie had a big first half with 12 points, two assists, two rebounds, and three steals for North Hall. She finished with 15 points, six assists, three rebounds, and four steals.
"She's our leader out there," House said. "I thought she played great on both ends of the floor."
Lakeview would make a push to get back in the game opening the third quarter with a 13-7 run to pull within 38-30 with 1:46 left in the period. North Hall would use a 10-2 run midway through the fourth quarter to extend the lead to 50-34.
That was as close as Lakeview would get the rest of the way.
Sadie Cleveland led North hall with 19 points. Hanna Grogan led Lakeview with 14 points.
The Lady Trojans dominated the boards for the game outrebounding Lakeview 32-18 for the game.
West Hall boys 62
North Hall 48
West Hall used a 20-9 first quarter to take the lead and then held several second half runs to earn the win.
North Hall would cut he lead to 34-24 by halftime and then pulled within 46-42 heading into the fourth quarter after an 18-7 third quarter run.
The Spartans turned up the defense in the fourth quarter holding the Trojans to just six points to pull away for the victory.
Hunter Atkinson led West Hall with 22 points, eight in the fourth quarter. Tyquan Statham added 14 points and Nie Sullens had 10 points for the Spartans.
Evan Easton paced North Hall with 14 points. Carson Heinen added seven for the Trojans.
West Hall will take on Lakeview Academy at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in the fifth-place game.
North Hall will play Flowery Branch game at 11:30 a.m. in the seventh-place game.
Lakeview Academy boys 50
Flowery Branch 47
Freshman Tre Gober hit a 3-pointer with 5.9 seconds left to lift the Lions to the victory.
Gober's basket highlighted an action-packed final three minutes that saw the teams' trade the lead six times.
Lakeview (5-2) trailed 28-27 at halftime but opened the third quarter with a 5-0 run to grab its biggest lead of the game, 32-28. The Falcons battled back with a 13-7 run into the fourth quarter for a 41-39 lead.
The Lions answered with a 6-2 run for a 45-43 lead with just over one minute left. The Falcons would tied the game at 47 on a basket by Cody Dewing with 30 seconds left.
Gober finished with 13 points to lead Lakeview. Tae Turner added 10 for the Lions.
Hunter Konuezowski paced Flowery Branch (1-8) with 11 points. Isaac Mize had seven points and Dewing finished with six points and six blocks for the Falcons.
Lakeview will take on West Hall at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in the fifth-place game.
Flowery Branch will take on North Hall at 11:30 a.m. in the seventh-place game.