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Strong local flavor highlights Lanier hoops tourney

Prep Basketball

2nd Annual Lanier Holiday Classic

Where: Lanier High School

Thursday’s schedule

GIRLS

9 a.m. — Providence Christian vs. Lambert

Noon — Mountain View vs. Whitewater

3 p.m. — Central Gwinnett vs. East Jackson

6 p.m. — Lanier vs. Winder-Barrow

BOYS

10:30 a.m. — Lambert vs. Stockbridge

1:30 p.m. — Ashley Ridge (S.C.) vs. Whitewater

4:30 p.m. — Mountain View vs. Providence Christian

7:30 p.m. — Lanier vs. Winder-Barrow

After staging a successful inaugural Christmas week tournament a year ago, Lanier High School hopes to build on that success when the second Lanier Holiday Classic tips off Thursday at the Sugar Hill school's gymnasium.

This year's edition will feature a much stronger local flavor in its field than a year ago, especially in the girls backer, which will have at least one Gwinnett County team -- the host Longhorns, plus Central Gwinnett, Mountain View and Providence Christian -- in each opening-round matchup.

In addition, three of the four remaining teams -- Lambert, East Jackson and Winder-Barrow -- come from counties neighboring Gwinnett.

"We definitely wanted Mountain View and Central Gwinnett, and we tried to get South Gwinnett, but we couldn't fit them in," Lanier girls coach David Palmer said. "A lot of it was by design, but we ... definitely wanted to grow this (tournament) to included teams from outside the county. We would like to have closer to a 50-50 split, and this is one step toward that.

"Mountain View was in the tournament last year (and finished third) and started three freshmen. So, they're coming back with an exceptionally strong team.

Central is strong and quick, and Providence is a pretty good team in their (region). Hopefully we can be more competitive this year. We need to get more consistent, but I think we're right there."

Likewise, the boys bracket feature a competitive field that will have teams, and coaches, very familiar to Gwinnett area fans.

In addition to county representatives in the host Longhorns, Mountain View and Providence, defending champion Lambert returns for the second straight season, this time under the leadership of former South coach Scott Bracco.

Meanwhile, the tournament's lone non-Georgia team, Ashley Ridge, also comes in with a familiar face on the sideline in the form of Brian Welch, a former standout player at Collins Hill and North Gwinnett now in his fifth season coaching the Summerville, S.C., school.

And like the Lanier girls team, the Longhorn boys, who finished as runner-up last year in a hard-fought title game against Lambert, are hoping to use this tournament as a springboard into January -- and, they hope, beyond.

"This will be a very competitive tournament," Lanier boys coach Jeremy Huckaby said. "Absolutely, it gave us a lot of confidence heading into the second half of the year going toe-to-toe with Lambert. We've been playing well (so far this year). ... And it will be good to be playing at home. We've played 11 games, and I think eight of them have been on the road."