GAINESVILLE — Despite a seven-game win streak, and having never lost to Lanier on its home floor, Gainesville came into the two teams’ Region 8-6A first-place showdown Tuesday night as the team most needing to prove something.
But instead, it was the Class 6A No. 4-ranked Longhorns who proved that there may indeed be a changing of the guard as they handed the Red Elephants a 63-59 loss, just their second-ever win over Gainesville in 10 all-time meetings.
“(Lanier) shot the ball well, probably a little better than we expected, and that was a big difference,” Gainesville coach Chuck Graham said afterwards. “They are a very, very good team. We had some turnovers at bad times, we had some defensive breakdowns, and those hurt. But this is a new group for us and I think they probably grew up a little tonight.
“They’re learning that in an atmosphere like this, kind of like the playoffs, you have to be focused. Every possession counts. I think they understand that better now.”
Lanier (15-5, 5-0 Region 8-6A) displayed the kind of style Gainesville fans have been accustomed too, pushing the ball, draining long 3-pointers, and getting key turnovers on defense.
The deciding barrage came in an 11-0 run in the third quarter after Gainesville opened with a 6-0 spurt to tie the game at 34. Three Red Elephants turnovers helped spark a trio of 3-pointers from Andrew McConnell, including the first to break the tie for the final Longhorns lead of the game as they ran out to a 45-34 advantage. They held off several charges by the Red Elephants (7-11, 4-1 Region 8-6A) over the next 14 minutes.
After Lanier’s big run, Gainesville never got closer than six points, at 60-54, until Eli Pitts hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer for the final score.
“It’s just one region game. It’s not the end of the world,” Graham said. “But what we hope is the guys see now what they need to do and the little things they need to do better to win games like this.”
It was a wide-open affair the entire first half as the teams traded nine lead changes to go with three ties. The Longhorns opened with an 8-4 run, capped by a McConnell 3-pointer, but Gainesville answered with a 6-0 run on the strength of three Ced Nicely baskets inside and took a 16-15 lead after the first quarter on a Pitts basket.
They traded 5-0 runs to start the second quarter but Nicely, who had 9 of Gainesville’s first 21 points, got into foul trouble. With the big man on the bench, Lanier responded with a 14-7 run to take a 34-28 halftime lead.
“Ced was having a big game inside and when he got in trouble, that kind of changed the approach for both teams,” Graham said.
McConnell and Mercer-commit Sion James each had 16 points to lead Lanier. Johnson finished with 12 points for the Longhorns.
Robert Reisman paced Gainesville with 23 points. Nicely had 13 but just four after the first quarter as he battled foul trouble. Pitts finished with 9 points for the Red Elephants.
LANIER GIRLS 51,
The defending state champion Lady Longhorns (10-9. 4-1 Region 8-6A) never trailed jumping out to a 9-0 lead and never looked back.
The Lady Red Elephants (7-11, 2-3 Region 8-6A) had been 7-1 this season when allowing 55 points or fewer but offensively they could not solve the taller and more physical Lanier defense.
The early onslaught was fueled by a half-dozen offensive rebounds and five Gainesville turnovers.
Gainesville got to within 9-3 on a Lauren Teasley basket and one Teasley free throw. But Lanier answered with a 10-0 run on the strength of three more Gainesville turnovers for a 19-3 lead.
Twice in the second quarter Gainesville climbed within 11 points at 19-8 and 23-12. But again the Lady Longhorns responded closing out the first half with an 8-0 run over the final three minutes for a 31-12 lead.
Any chance of a Gainesville comeback was snuffed out when Lanier held the Lady Red Elephants to just one McKayla Walden basket in the third quarter. The Lady Longhorns took a 45-14 lead into the fourth quarter.
Lanier outrebounded Gainesville 39-16 for the game with Chistabel Ezumah pulling down 9 to go with 7 points. Zee Davis and Karina Lopez each had 9 points to pace the Lady Longhorns.
The Lady Red Elephants were paced by 10 points from Teasley. Sadie Roach had 7 of Gainesville’s 16 rebounds.