Sunday August 14th, 2022 8:01PM

Basketball: 55th Lanierland promises plenty of intensity, excitement <b>(VIDEO)</b>

GAINESVILLE -- Brenda Hill-Gilmore has seen the Lanierland tournament from just about every angle -- as a player and a coach, as a champion and the defeated.<br /> <br /> And when you mention the word itself, her eyes light up a little.<br /> <br /> "It's great to see... It's going to be a lot of fun," the former East Hall High standout and current Gainesville High coach said of the tournament -- which is the oldest non-postseason competition in the state. "There's more teams now than there was when I was playing, so that means more rivalries. And all the old players come back out and support their high school teams, and they put a lot of pressure on teams to win. It's important to them. It's important to the whole community, and playing in front of a crowd like that is an awesome experience for the players."<br /> <br /> <b>(NOTE: To watch a video preview of the Lanierland Tournament click "play" in the box to the right... BELOW: A full tournament schedule, with broadcast times, as well as a brief look at how each team is playing early this season.)</b><br /> <br /> "Awesome" seems to be the key word for every player and coach set to compete in the 55th version of the Lanierland Tournament, which will begin on Saturday at West Hall High School in Oakwood before moving to Chestatee High in Gainesville for the second round and finales on Monday and Tuesday, respectively.<br /> <br /> What else would you expect when combine all that tradition and history with wall-to-wall crowds and the intensity that is Hall County basketball rivalry?<br /> <br /> "It's huge because we all want to do something special, because the whole community comes to watch and we want to be known as winners," Johnson senior forward Rod English said.<br /> <br /> English and his teammates ensured that very thing after helping the Knights to the 2013 Lanierland crown -- Johnson's boys second ever tournament success. It was a success that has only whet the Knights' appetites for more.<br /> <br /> "It's definitely the best environment I've ever played in," Johnson senior guard Daemonte Nicholson said. "Like (Johnson head) coach (Jeff) Steele says, it's something you'll remember forever."<br /> <br /> Steele believes that defending the crown will be even tougher, however. And, despite being 10-0, the coach believes there will be no easy opposition anywhere in the bracket.<br /> <br /> "It's probably as tough as it's been in a long time," said Steele, whose team will open play against an improved Flowery Branch. "Flowery Branch is solid, and they've got great shooters. They worry me. And everybody knows about Gainesville and East Hall. It's going to be tough."<br /> <br /> The Red Elephants are also 10-0, while East Hall has just one loss (7-1). North Hall and Chestatee have also shown tremendous improvement this season, while Lakeview and West Hall have the athleticism to compete with anyone.<br /> <br /> Things are not any easier in the girls bracket, and Hill-Gilmore says her team will need to play its best of the season so far if it is to the defend its 2013 title -- which was its first Lanierland success in seven years.<br /> <br /> "I think it's going to be tougher than last year," Hill-Gilmore said. "Flowery Branch (off to a 9-1 start) has been impressive. East Hall (6-3), North Hall (6-4) and Chestatee have played well, as have we. And Lakeview, West Hall and Johnson are also improving. I think it's anybody's game, and we're working hard to be prepared."<br /> <br /> Like Johnson, the memories of last year's success has acted as a carrot during practice sessions this week for Gainesville.<br /> <br /> "It meant a lot to win (last year), a lot of bragging rights," Gainesville junior forward Breana Fair said. "Also it made us play together as a team. And we started playing better as a team afterward because of that tournament."<br /> <br /> In other words, there is plenty riding on this week -- even if coaches know that a Lanierland title does not necessarily corollate to more success come the end of the season.<br /> <br /> "It means a lot, probably more to the players than the coaches. But it means a lot to the coaches as well. We want to win region championships and state championships, but winning Lanierland is such an honor," Steele said. <br /> <br /> And you can bet you'll see players and coaches acting like it over the next few days.<br /> <br /> <br /> <b>A BRIEF LOOK AT HOW 2014 LANIERLAND TEAMS ARE PLAYING ON EVE OF TOURNEY</b><br /> <br /> BOYS<br /> <i>(Seeding -- based on last year's Lanierland finish -- listed, along with current record)</i><br /> <b>No. 1 Johnson, 10-0</b><br /> -- The Knights feature a duo as good as any in northeast Georgia in seniors Ty Cockfield and Rod English, but they are not just a two-player team. And Johnson's standouts have been aided by some fast-rising teammates -- that they are trusting to help lead to lead their defense of the Lanierland crown.<br /> <br /> <b>No. 2 East Hall, 7-1</b><br /> -- Everyone knows about senior standout Kyvon Davenport, who is one of the most explosive players in the state, but the Vikings are not winning with Davenport alone and have also found some stellar defensive play from up and down the lineup. Players like Triston Cooper and Jacquen Hopkins are also providing key long-range shooting.<br /> <br /> <b>No. 3 Gainesville, 10-0</b><br /> -- True D'Marcus Simonds has been a revelation, but the Red Elephants' surge has also featured Jermaine Fleming and contributions from players like Sam Carpenter and Luke Maddox. Coach Benjie Wood has also tweaked his plan of attack to work with his team's abilities, eschewing the full-court defensive press to rely on the half-court. So far, it's working well indeed.<br /> <br /> <b>No. 4 Chestatee, 7-4</b><br /> -- Hunter Creamer is showing that he is in fact just what new coach Chad Pittman hoped: an offensive anchor, on which to help lead the War Eagles' turnaround. But a renewed emphasis on defense has been just as key. Consider that heading into the 2013 Lanierland, Chestatee was just 2-6.<br /> <br /> <b>No. 5 West Hall, 2-6</b><br /> -- The Spartans have suffered two close losses in the lead-in to the tournament and are still getting their feet under them. It will be interesting to see how they react to their second contest with Chestatee after suffering a 70-45 loss to War Eagles on Dec. 13.<br /> <br /> <b>No. 6 Lakeview Academy, 7-2</b><br /> -- The Lions may be rotating a slew of knew players, but it has been a nice start to the campaign for Lakeview, as players like Josh Randolph, Tae Turner and Tre Gober, amongst others, have eased the transition in coach Todd Cottrell's second season.<br /> <br /> <b>No. 7 North Hall, 6-4</b><br /> -- The Trojans are taking the next step for coach Tyler Sanders after a tough campaign in 2013 and are leaps and bounds ahead of last season. Carson Heinen has continued his offensive assault and Sam Jackson has provided plenty of support, amongst others. And they're only getting better as the season progresses.<br /> <br /> <b>No. 8 Flowery Branch, 5-5</b><br /> -- The Falcons have also taken a big step forward in coach David Sokol's second season, with players like Taylor Bourdage and Hunter Konuszewski providing plenty of offensive firepower. Flowery Branch is a consistent threat from the perimeter and has played several outstanding teams to the wire.<br /> <br /> GIRLS<br /> <b>No. 1 Gainesville, 5-5</b><br /> -- The Lady Red Elephants are still very much an explosive team with Taylor Hawks and Shikiya Brown pacing the offense. The defending champs have played some tough foes this season, including traditional powers Buford and Wesleyan, and that could prove key in tournament play.<br /> <br /> <b>No. 2 North Hall, 6-4</b><br /> -- The Lady Trojans suffered a key loss when senior standout Sydney Cleveland went down with a knee injury, but North Hall has shown since that it is more than capable of bouncing back with two straight wins, with players like Sadie Cleveland, Katie Sayres and Taylor Ann Kelly putting up big performances.<br /> <br /> <b>No. 3 Chestatee, 7-5 </b><br /> -- Tyler Bennett and Kayla Watson have helped lead the Lady War Eagles so far, as they have battled against some tough foes -- two of their losses have come against Class AAAAAA foes, while another was by just two points to East Hall. <br /> <br /> <b>No. 4 Lakeview Academy, 6-3</b><br /> -- As expected, Schyler Miller and Hannah Grogan have been impressive so far for the Lady Lions. Two of Lakeview's three losses have come against North Hall so far this season, so you know they would love another shot at the Lady Trojans.<br /> <br /> <b>No. 5 East Hall, 6-3</b><br /> -- The Lady Vikings have the mix of speed and athleticism to defeat anyone if the shots are falling. East Hall has also played a very tough region schedule so far, with its only losses coming to Dawson County (11-0) and Banks County (8-0) by a combined 10 points.<br /> <br /> <b>No. 6 Flowery Branch, 9-1</b><br /> -- The young Lady Falcons have stormed into 2014-15, taking the early lead in Region 8-AAAAA. A number of players are capable of stepping up with juniors Kierra Knight, Breanna Locke, Heather Moore and Maddie Hetzel each taking turns scoring, along with sophomore Julianne Sutton and freshman Lexie Sengkhammee. They seem to be flying high as the tournament begins.<br /> <br /> <b>No. 7 West Hall, 3-5</b><br /> -- The young Lady Spartans have ridden an up-and-down start so far but have plenty of positives to take away from those opening few contests, including the play of Meaghan Kelling and Anna McKendree.<br /> <br /> <b>No. 8 Johnson, 3-6</b><br /> -- The Lady Knights have already shown major improvement under first year coach Tiffany Kirkland and are looking to get back into the Lanierland mix. Johnson enters the tournament on a four-game skid but this motivated team could be a nightmare for any opponent in any round.<br /> <br /> <br /> <b>2014 LANIERLAND TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE</b><br /> FIRST ROUND<br /> <i>Dec. 27, at West Hall High, Oakwood</i><br /> 10 a.m. -- Lakeview girls vs. East Hall -- Radio: 1240 AM<br /> 11:30 a.m. -- Chestatee boys vs. West Hall -- Radio: 1240 AM<br /> 1 p.m. -- Chestatee girls vs. Flowery Branch -- Radio: 1240 AM<br /> 2:30 p.m. -- Gainesville boys vs. Lakeview -- Radio: 1240 AM<br /> 4 p.m. -- North Hall girls vs. West Hall -- Radio: AM 550<br /> 5:30 p.m. -- East Hall boys vs. North Hall -- Radio: AM 550<br /> 7 p.m. -- Gainesville girls vs. Johnson -- Radio: AM 550<br /> 8:30 p.m. -- Johnson boys vs. Flowery Branch -- Radio: AM 550<br /> <br /> SECOND ROUND<br /> <i>Dec. 29, at Chestatee High, Gainesville</i><br /> 9 a.m. -- First of four consolation games<br /> 4 p.m. -- Girls semifinal game -- Radio: 1240 AM<br /> 5:30 p.m. -- Boys semifinal game -- Radio: 1240 AM<br /> 7 p.m. -- Girls semifinal game -- Radio: AM 550<br /> 8:30 p.m. -- Boys semifinal game -- Radio: AM 550<br /> <br /> FINAL ROUND<br /> <i>Dec. 30, at Chestatee High, Gainesville</i><br /> 9 a.m. -- First of six consolation games<br /> 7 p.m. -- Girls championship game -- Radio: AM 550<br /> 8:30 p.m. Boys championship game -- Radio: AM 550
© Copyright 2022
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
2014 Top 10: Looking back at the top sports stories of the year
It was another year for the record books in 2014, mostly for the right reasons -- state championships, new challenges and new stars taking their turn to shine. But there were also plenty of big stories that reminded us that sports -- like life -- isn
11:55PM ( 5 years ago )
NASCAR K&N Pro Series schedules set for 2015
DAYTONA BEACH, FL - NASCAR announced recently the 2015 schedules for its top developmental regional touring series, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.
2:00PM ( 5 years ago )
Lanierland boys final: Johnson makes history with win over Red Elephants <b> (VIDEO) </b>
Ever the aggressor on the court, Johnson
8:55AM ( 5 years ago )
Lanierland boys semifinals: Unbeatens Johnson, Red Elephants roll into finals
Both Gainesville and Johnson powered their way into the Lanierland Tournament finals on Monday. The two undefeated teams will meet Tuesday for the title at 8:30 p.m. at Chestatee.
10:01AM ( 5 years ago )
Lanierland girls semifinals: GHS, Lady Falcons advance to finals <b> (VIDEO) </b>
Flowery Branch and Gainesville each took impressive wins Monday to advance to the Lanierland Tournament finals...
10:00AM ( 5 years ago )
Girls basketball: Lady Tigers advance to Pickens Holiday finals
The Dawson County girls basketball advanced to the finals of the Pickens Holiday Classic after an 81-54 win over Riverwood Monday.
11:48PM ( 5 years ago )
High School Sports
Fans pack Dawsonville to celebrate Chase Elliott's NASCAR title
Fans from across the state, and country, flocked to Dawsonville on Monday to celebrate Chase Elliott's NASCAR Cup Series championship.
5:30AM ( 3 hours ago )
A quiet start to empty week at Augusta National for Masters
Augusta National has never looked so spacious on the first practice day for the Masters
2:46AM ( 5 hours ago )
Falcons reach bye week on a modest two-game winning streak
The Atlanta Falcons have reached their bye week on a modest two-game winning streak and with three victories in their past four games
5:22PM ( 15 hours ago )
Garcia withdraws from Masters after positive COVID-19 test
Former Masters champion Sergio Garcia is the second player to withdraw at Augusta National after testing positive for the coronavirus
5:15PM ( 15 hours ago )
Bennett could lose Georgia starting QB job even if healthy
Quarterback Stetson Bennett’s status as 12th-ranked Georgia’s starter is uncertain even if he recovers from a shoulder injury in time to play this week at Missouri
4:40PM ( 15 hours ago )