GAINESVILLE — For a good 15 or 20 minutes Wednesday night, Lakeview Academy did everything it could to ruin a much-anticipated showdown between East Hall and Gainesville in the boys final of the 62nd annual Lanierland Tournament.
The Lions had rallied from a 20-point third-quarter deficit (37-17) to the No. 1 seed Red Elephants to almost being within one possession following a 20-5 run. In the end, however, Gainesville regrouped for an 18-5 run of its own to close out a harder-than-it-looked 60-42 win over the Lions in the semifinals at the Gainesville gym.
“Lakeview didn’t quit, and we knew they would give us a run,” Gainesville coach Chuck Graham said. “We were able to withstand it, fortunately. They really played well.”
Lakeview coach Tyler Sanders agreed.
“Our guys played their (tails) off tonight. Very proud of their effort,” he said.
The Red Elephants’ win now sets up a finals showdown between the tournament’s two winningest programs. Gainesville (4-9) will take on East Hall (12-2) for the title on Thursday at North Hall.
Lakeview will play Cherokee Bluff in the third-place game on Thursday.
“This is going to be big for the community,” Graham said. “East Hall is having a great year so far. It’s going to be a huge challenge for us.”
It will also be big for the Red Elephants, who are looking for a sixth-straight Lanierland title, which would be a program-best. Gainesville won five straight from 1975-79.
“We don’t ever talk about repeating because every team is different,” he said. “We’re just going to do what we can to win this one.”
Early on against Lakeview (5-7), it looked like the Red Elephants were going to make quick work of the Lions. They never trailed after Ellis Pitts drained a 3-pointer 10 seconds into the game. They led 7-1 in the opening three minutes and 14-6 after the first quarter.
A pair of Isaiah Rico baskets pulled Lakeview within 19-10 in the second quarter but Gainesville pushed its lead to 29-14 by halftime on a steal and eventual three-point play from Dre Raven.
An 8-0 Red Elephants' run early in the third quarter made it 37-17, and the rout appeared to be on. But the Lions woke up.
Two Liam Weidner 3-pointers ignited a 12-0 Lakeview run that finished with a Rico stick back basket to pull within 37-29. The Lions climbed to within 42-37 on a Harrison Cooper basket with 6:36 left. They almost got within 42-40 on a Rico 3-pointer, but it was waved off because of a Gainesville foul underneath. That proved to be a game-changing call.
From there, it was all Gainesville. A 10-0 Gainesville run, sparked by two Qua Coley baskets, pushed the lead to 52-37. Gainesville got 3-pointers from Charlie Reisman and Pitts to put the final dagger in the Lions for the final score.
“Anything can happen in a Lanierland game,” Graham said. “Lakeview never quit and our guys have got to learn that you can’t relax. We made some adjustments and the kids responded.”
Pitts finished with 15 points to pace Gainesville. Reisman knocked down 10 points, all in the second half, and Julius Jackson had 9 and Raven 8 for the Red Elephants.
Rico scored 13 to lead Lakeview. Cooper and Weidman each had 11 for the Lions.
EAST HALL 68,
CHEROKEE BLUFF 58
The East Hall boys had one main goal for the first half of the 2021-22 season: get to the finals of the Lanierland Tournament.
Mission accomplished after the Vikings shook off a slow start to beat Cherokee Bluff on Wednesday in the semifinals.
“It definitely feels good to get us back into the finals,” East Hall coach Tommy Yancey said. “We’re playing pretty good right now. We’re looking forward to it, no matter who we play.”
The Vikings (12-2) will play Gainesville in Thursday’s championship game at North Hall. It will be their first finals appearance since 2018.
Behind junior C.J. Agborsangaya, the Vikings rallied from an early 12-4 deficit. Agborsangaya, who poured in a game-high 29 points, including five 3-pointers, was the main catalyst, draining four long balls in a 22-6 run for an eventual 26-18 lead midway through the second quarter they would not relinquish.
“C.J. has worked his tail off since last year,” Yancey said. “We’re seeing all that hard work paying off now.”
Bluff (4-8) started strong getting 3-pointers from Boston Kersh and Cade Simmons for that 12-4 lead late in the first quarter.
“Bluff has a lot of shooters, so we went to a little more press and just tried to speed them up some,” Yancey said. “We got some turnovers and that kind of got us going.”
The second Agborsangaya trey of the game gave East Hall an 18-16 lead to open the second quarter, and the Bears never led again.
Bluff did get an 8-0 run, capped by a Carlos Marlowe basket, to tie the game at 26 late in the second quarter. But a 19-9 run into the third quarter pushed the Vikings’ lead to 45-35 and from there, East Hall eventually built its lead to as many 16 points (67-51) late in the game.
Yancey is excited about the progress his group has made, particularly on the offensive end.
“We feel we have a lot of weapons, and our guys are playing with more confidence,” he said. “Levi (Holtzclaw) is like having a coach on the floor and is very unselfish and is directing the offense very well."
After Agborsangaya, East Hall got 16 points from Clete Cooper and 10 points from Christian Torres. Holtzclaw finished with 9 points.
Marlowe led Cherokee Bluff with 19 points and Simmons had 15. Kersh had 10 points and Jhace Justice 8 for the Bears.
Bluff will play the loser of the Gainesville-Lakeview Academy semifinal in the third-place game on Thursday.
FLOWERY BRANCH 49
The War Eagles jumped out to a quick first-quarter lead and pulled away after that to advance to the fifth-place game on Thursday.
Chestatee led 23-15 after the first quarter but used a 17-9 second to grab a 40-24 halftime lead. The War Eagles maintained a double-digit lead the rest of the way.
The Falcons were playing without leading scorer Tyleek Worth, who was out sick and was limited in Tuesday’s first-round action as well.
Jarvis Weaver played one of his best games of the season with 19 points and 9 rebounds to lead Chestatee. Hugh Pruitt added 18 points, and Colton Wilbanks continued his strong tournament with 16 points.
Branch’s Trey Shaw led all scorers with 21 points. Jack Burney had 8 for the Falcons.
NORTH HALL 65,
WEST HALL 54
The Trojans opened the game with a 25-10 run en route to a win in the consolation bracket on Wednesday.
North Hall (10-4) moves into the fifth-place game and will take on Chestatee, which beat Flowery Branch 72-49 in the other consolation game, on Thursday at North Hall. West Hall will play Flowery Branch in the seventh-place game on Thursday.
West Hall (3-9) rallied with a big second quarter to pull within 40-32 by halftime. But the Spartans could get closer in the second half.
Elijah Gaddy led North Hall with 21 points. Robert Terry added 16 points and Andrew Bales 14 for the Trojans.
West Hall was paced by Stephen Clark with 20 points. Owen Jenkins added 11 points for the Spartans.
LANIERLAND TOURNAMENT, Dec. 29
(at Gainesville High School)
North Hall 65, West Hall 54 (consolation)
Chestatee 72, Flowery Branch 49 (consolation)
East Hall 68, Cherokee Bluff 58 (semifinals)
Gainesville 60, Lakeview Academy 42 (semifinals)
LANIERLAND TOURNAMENT, Dec. 30
(at North Hall High School)
7th place game: West Hall vs. Flowery Branch, 10:30 a.m.
5th place game: North Hall vs. Chestatee, 1:30 p.m.
3rd place game: Cherokee Bluff vs. Lakeview Academy, 4:30 p.m.
Championship game: East Hall vs. Gainesville, 7:30 p.m.
LANIERLAND TOURNAMENT, Dec. 28
(1st round scores)
Lakeview Academy 64, Chestatee 63
East Hall 64, North Hall 50
Cherokee Bluff 79, West Hall 49
Gainesville 60, Flowery Branch 36