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Lanier boys make title game, girls fall just short

SUGAR HILL -- One certainty that will come out of the boys side of the Lanier Holiday Classic basketball tournament is that the winner will be the Longhorns.

The uncertainty is in which team of Longhorns it will be.

Lanier earned a spot in the finals of the tournament by posting a hard-fought, 48-43 win over Hapeville Charter Academy on Thursday night, putting the second-year program in position to win its first tournament trophy of any kind.

Its opponent will be the Longhorns of Lambert, who earlier disposed of South Forsyth, setting up today's final at 7:30 p.m. at Lanier High School.

"We've talked about it a lot in that any time you get a chance to win a trophy of any kind, it's a special thing," Lanier head coach Jeremy Huckaby said. "It's a rare thing to have a chance at any kind of title and we're excited about this one."

The win on Thursday was not an easy one as Lanier (7-6) could never seem to shake Hapeville. Lanier led 26-19 at the break and extended it to nine at 30-21 with 5:13 left in the third only to see the Hornets rally to pull within one at 31-30 by quarter's end.

The fourth period was a back-and-forth affair, dominated by whistles from the refs as Lanier attempted 21 free throws in the fourth (hitting 11 of them) and Hapeville getting 11 free throws (converting just four). The two teams combined for 45 fouls.

Lanier's M.J. Bryant, who had a team-high 14 points, scored all five of his points in the fourth from the charity stripe, but his role in the win went beyond with his number in the scoring column.

"He has learned to get everyone involved," Huckaby said. "Early in the year, he was scoring 20 or more a game but he has learned how to involve everyone."

Bryant also finished with six rebounds and three assists.

Jordan Davis added nine points for Lanier, while Austin Wood had 10 rebounds, eight points and two blocks. Simon Shafack also added eight points.

Hapeville, which will play South Forsyth for third place, was led by 12 points from Maleek Taylor, while Datruan Poole finished with nine points and a game-high 13 rebounds.

"I was so impressed with how we kept our composure," Huckaby said. "We didn't play that well tonight but we fought through it and came through down the stretch."

Lanier's girls weren't as fortunate as the boys as the Longhorns let a lead slip away, falling 45-42 to Whitewater.

The Longhorns (4-7) looked to be in control in the first half, building a 23-15 lead by the intermission, only to see the Wildcats get back in the game with a 9-0 run early in the third quarter.

Lanier was able to cling to its lead until 1:05 left to play when a basket by Kari Chambers put Whitewater up 44-42, its first lead since scoring on the game's opening possession.

The Longhorns had a chance to tie with 40 seconds left but couldn't convert a pair of free throws, opening the door for Whitewater to close the game out.

Free throws were an issue for Lanier as the Longhorns were just 9-for-27.

Shelby Threlkeld of Lanier led all playes with 19 points, but the rest of Lanier's offense offered little support as the next two leading scorers were Tamar Osborne and Amber Cesair with seven points each.

Whitewater, which will play Cedar Shoals today at 6 p.m. for the girls tournament title, was led by 14 points and nine rebounds from Jada Coggins.

Despite the setback in the tournament, the third-place finish would still be a huge step over last season that saw the Longhorns win just one game. The third-place game will be today at 3 p.m. against Mountain View.