GAINESVILLE -- Tanai Watson is known as a defensive stopper -- but on Thursday she showed her offensive skills are pretty sharp too, especially in the clutch.
The Gainesville High freshman grabbed an offensive rebound and drained a putback basket that gave her Lady Red Elephants a buzzer-beating 43-41 victory over Jackson County in the first round of the Big Red Shootout at Gainesville.
"She's a tough kid that's not afraid to battle and bang around inside, but she does a lot of good things for us," Lady Red Elephants coach Brenda Hill-Gilmore said of Watson, who scored her only field goal of the night on the game-winner. "Really she's a great defensive player already, but she's not afraid to score if she gets the opportunity."
The victory moved Gainesville into the Shootout semifinals at 7 p.m. Friday.
(Editor's Note: For a look at all of Thursday's Big Red Shootout results and Friday's Shootout schedule simply scroll down.)
Defense certainly proved huge for Gainesville (9-1) in Thursday's comeback win, as the Lady Red Elephants overturned a nine-point second half deficit by holding Jackson County without a field goal in the fourth quarter.
Gainesville's Taylor Hawks also found her offensive rhythm inside the final eight minutes, scoring five straight points, including a 3-pointer that knotted the game at 39-39 -- part of a 10-2 run that turned the game for good.
Cori Griffith gave the Lady Red Elephants a 41-39 lead courtesy two free throws, only to watch Jackson County's Brianna Love knot the score at 41-41 with two free throws of her own with 1:13 remaining. The Lady Panthers would hardly see the ball again, however, as Gainesville held possession until the clock had nearly expired -- Hawks, who finished with 11 points, cutting to the basket with just eight seconds remaining. Her lay-up attempt rimmed out, but Watson was there to secure the putback, and the victory, as Jackson County could not even get a desperation 3-point attempt off before the clock expired.
"Our kids battled and fought, and sometimes you have to have luck to win games like this, and we had it tonight," Hill-Gilmore said. "Jackson County is a good team. They were very patient, and we came out rusty and made some mistakes we don't normally make tonight. But I knew it would be tough coming in after Christmas, and we just finished up Lanierland, where we played so hard."
Gainesville's offense needed some time to crank up, as the Lady Red Elephants started the game 0 for 8 from the field. But the hosts' defense kept Gainesville close, as it forced 10 turnovers from Franklin County to trail 6-5 after the first quarter.
Yet the Lady Red Elephants pieced together a 12-0 run after falling behind 6-0 and moved in front 12-6 on Bessie Winston's lay-up with 6:38 left in the second quarter.
Jackson County staunched the bleeding however and trailed just 21-17 at the half before catching fire in the third quarter. Shelton Kendrix opened the period with a 3-pointer, and Mason Garland added another to take a 27-24 lead -- part of a 16-3 Lady Panthers run.
Jackson County extended its lead to 33-24 on Kendrix's lay-in with 1:52 left in the third quarter -- but the Lady Panthers could not shake Gainesville, who hung close despite a 5:01 field goal drought.
Shikiya Brown added seven points for the Lady Red Elephants, who saw 10 different players score on the night.
Garland paced Jackson County with 17 points. Kendrix added 10.
The Lady Panthers will look to bounce back against North Hall in the consolation bracket at 1 p.m. Friday.
Gainesville, meanwhile, will play host to Chattahoochee in the girls semifinals at 7 p.m. Friday.
BUFORD GIRLS 58,
FRANKLIN COUNTY 39
Camile Anderson scored 12 of her game-high 18 points in the first half to help the Lady Wolves establish early control, as they cruised to the opening round win on Thursday at Gainesville.
Anderson buried three 3-pointers, while Bree Horrocks added eight of her 14 before halftime, as Buford took a 29-15 lead into the locker room.
Franklin County could not put up double digit scoring in the first three quarters -- and by then the Lady Lions trailed 42-21.
Abby Hunter scored 14 points to pace Franklin County in the loss.
The Lady Lions will look to bounce back against Alpharetta at 10 a.m. Friday in the consolation bracket.
Buford, meanwhile, will look to move into the championship game when it takes on Central Gwinnett at 4 p.m. Friday.
CHATTAHOOCHEE GIRLS 53,
NORTH HALL 45
The Lady Trojans slipped behind in the third quarter and could not catch back up en route to the defeat on Thursday in Gainesville.
The two teams traded baskets in the first half and entered the interval tied at 25-25, but Chattahoochee put up 18 points in the third quarter and held North Hall to eight points in the eight minutes following halftime.
Sydney Cleveland paced the Lady Trojans with a game-high 17 -- 10 of that coming in the first half. Katie Sayres also buried three 3-pointers, as she finished with 11 points.
North Hall sank five treys, but Chattahoochee's Charity Starke matched the total by herself, finishing with five 3-pointers for 15 points. Siena Gore also scored 16, while Erin Morrow added 15 to help secure the win.
Chattahoochee moves on to face Gainesville in the tournament semifinals at 7 p.m. Friday.
North Hall, meanwhile, will look to bounce back against Jackson County at 1 p.m. Friday in Gainesville.
CHATTAHOOCHEE BOYS 65,
NORTH HALL 48
Carson Heinen scored 30 for the Trojans, but it was not enough to offset 42 from the Cougars' Marcus Sheffield on Thursday in Gainesville.
Sheffield buried four 3-pointers and dominated from start to finish, as Chattahoochee jumped out to a 15-8 first quarter lead.
North Hall trailed just 30-25 at the half but managed just four points in the third quarter, as it fell behind 45-29.
Heinen also sank four treys in the game, while Brock Wingo added seven in the loss.
North Hall will face Gainesville at 2:30 p.m. Friday in the consolation round.
Chattahoochee moves on to face Douglass at 8:30 p.m. Friday in the boys semifinals.
DOUGLASS BOYS 85,
The Astros pulled away over the second half thanks in large part to Jamario Duggan, who scored a game-high 32 points. Omar Bandeh also added 18 for Douglass.
The Red Elephants buried four 3-pointers in the first quarter to take a 20-18 lead and trailed just 39-37 at the half, but Duggan sparked a 14-3 run in the third quarter that saw the Astros pull ahead 55-43. Gainesville never closed the gap closer than nine the rest of the way.
Rodney Lackey and Luke Maddox each scored 10 points to pace the Red Elephants, while JJ Hector added nine. Ithello Cross also scored eight.
Gainesville will look to bounce back against North Hall in the consolation bracket at 2:30 p.m. Friday.
Douglass moves on to face Chattahoochee in the tournament semifinals at 8:30 p.m. Friday.
2013 BIG RED SHOOTOUT
At Gainesville High
First Round Results
(Scores posted in order of games played)
Buford girls 58, Franklin County 39
Parkview boys 50, Lanier 41
Central Gwinnett boys 55, Alpharetta 46
Central Gwinnett boys 66, Alpharetta
Chattahoochee girls 53, North Hall 45
Chattahoochee boys 65, North Hall 48
Gainesville girls 43, Jackson County 41
Douglass boys 85, Gainesville 65
Second Round Schedule
10 a.m. -- Franklin County girls vs. Alpharetta
11:30 a.m. -- Alpharetta boys vs. Lanier
1 p.m. -- North Hall girls vs. Jackson County
2:30 p.m. -- North Hall boys vs. Gainesville
4 p.m. -- Buford girls vs. Central Gwinnett
5:30 p.m. -- Parkview boys vs. Central Gwinnett
7 p.m. -- Gainesville girls vs. Chattahoochee
8:30 p.m. -- Douglass boys vs. Chattahoochee