GAINESVILLE — A frazzled Kristi House was all you needed to see to describe the 2021 Lanierland Tournament girls final Thursday night at the Lynn Cottrell Court.
Her North Hall Lady Trojans held off a young but surging Lakeview Academy squad, 60-55, in an improbable matchup between two teams few picked to even make it into the winner’s bracket, much less the finals.
Lakeview (3-8) came into the tournament riding a seven-game losing streak. North Hall (9-5) had lost three straight and four of its last five.
“Wow. Just a tremendous game and atmosphere,” House said about the overflow crowd at the North Hall gym. “The crowd was great. That was a great game between two teams I’m sure no one thought would be here. Both teams just played so hard.”
In the end, Tournament MVP Kristina Peach was the difference. The junior guard hit two huge 3-pointers as part of her 21 points in a 20-second span to give the Lady Trojans just enough cushion to capture their second title in three years.
“(Kristina) was big in the fourth quarter yesterday and came up with some huge baskets for us again (in the finals),” House said. “But I really thought the entire team made plays at different times.
Acting Lakeview Academy coach Karen Towles wore both the face of disappointment and admiration when talking about her team.
“You always want to win but it was a great effort by our girls,” Towles said. “We got down twice but the kids didn’t quit and got the lead both times. Really just proud of their entire effort.”
North Hall took the initial lead on a Kate Swanson 3-pointer. Lakeview answered with an 11-2 run powered by 3-pointers from Jolle Snyder and Sidney Corbin for an 11-5 lead. From there, the Lady Trojans turned up the defensive pressure.
North Hall forced four Lakeview turnovers to ignite a 15-2 run, highlighted by a pair of Peach 3-pointers to run out to a 20-13 advantage midway through the second quarter. A Dynesty Putnam driving shot ended a 6-minute drought for the Lady Lions but North Hall forced four more Lakeviw turnovers as part of a 7-2 spurt for a 27-17 lead.
The Lady Lions responded in the final 93 seconds getting a pair of Snyder free throws and two more driving baskets, including a three-point play, from Putnam to close out the half trailing just 30-24.
The Lady Lions continued their rally, opening the third quarter with a 12-5 spurt, capped by two Ashlyn Henderson free throws, for a 36-35 lead. Five straight points by Swanson reclaimed a 41-38 lead for North Hall and the third quarter ended in a tie at 45.
House said she challenged her group in the huddle.
“I told them we have 8 minutes to win this thing and how bad did they want it,” she said.
The Lady Lions would take a 49-47 lead on another Putnam drive but it would be their last. Three-pointers by Amelia Shoemaker and Peach again gave North Hall a 54-49 lead with 4:09 left.
Snyder trimmed the lead to 54-52 with her third 3-pointer of the game but Peach answered right back with the last of her five treys to push the lead back to five at 57-52. Lakeview only got as close as 59-55 on a Sara Nivens 3-pointer with 1:40 left.
Shoemaker finished with 14 points for North Hall. Swanson added 9, all on 3-pointers.
Snyder led Lakeview with 21 points and Putnam, a freshman, had 18, though she was held to just 2 points over the final 10 minutes.
“I thought Dynesty really grew up a lot in this tournament, Towles said. “I feel like these three days have shown the girls what they are capable of.”
FLOWERY BRANCH 39
Keidra Young had 19 points to lead the Lady Red Elephants (8-6) to a win in the third-place game.
Gainesville (8-6) used another strong defensive showing, holding the Lady Falcons (6-8) to 9 points or less over the final three quarters. The Lady Red Elephants led 21-13 after the first quarter and 29-22 at halftime.
The Lady Red Elephants were poised to blow the game open in the third quarter, running out to a 37-24 lead. But Branch rallied behind Shaina Kriews to get within 40-39 midway through the fourth quarter.
But Gainesville closed out the game with a 5-0 run to hold on.
Kinsleight Teasley had 7 points for Gainesville.
Bella Brick and Alana Veiga each had 8 points for the Lady Falcons.
CHEROKEE BLUFF 54,
EAST HALL 34
The Lady Bears used a big first half to grab a quick lead and pull away to win the fifth-place game on Thursday.
Bluff (7-7) opened with a 19-7 first quarter and then held the Lady Vikings (8-6) to just 4 points in the second for a 31-11 halftime lead. The two teams played to a standstill in the second half as East Hall was not able to chip into the lead.
Kaitlin Cook led Bluff with 18 points, 12 in the second half. Finley Millwood scored all 9 of her points in the first half. Timber Gaither added 8 points for the Lady Bears.
Riley Black poured in 26 points to lead the Lady War Eagles to the win in the seventh-place game and avoid the play-in game for the 2022 tournament.
The Chestatee defense was the story as well, holding the Lady Knights scoreless in the first quarter and to just 8 points through the first three periods.
The Lady War Eagles (9-5) led 13-0 after the opening frame and 27-6 at halftime. They took a 46-8 lead into the fourth quarter.
Bowen Corely added 14 points and Riley Allison 10 for Chestatee.
Johnson (2-10) was led by Emely Trejo with 7 points.
LANIERLAND TOURNAMENT, Dec. 30
(at North Hall High School)
Championship game: North Hall 60, Lakeview Academy 55
3rd place game: Gainesville 45, Flowery Branch 39
5th place game: Cherokee Bluff 54, East Hall 34
7th place game: Chestatee 57, Johnson 15
LANIERLAND TOURNAMENT, Dec. 29
(at Gainesville High School)
East Hall 56, Chestatee 47 (consolation bracket)
Cherokee Bluff 54, Johnson 17 (consolation bracket)
Lakeview Academy 50, Flowery Branch 36 (semifinals)
North Hall 51, Gainesville 44 (semifinals)
LANIERLAND TOURNAMENT, Dec. 28
(Girls 1st round scores)
North Hall 42, Cherokee Bluff 37
Flowery Branch 49, Chestatee 44
Lakeview Academy 58, East Hall 52
Gainesville 55, Johnson 30