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Central pulls ahead to beat Lanier 56-36

Staff Photo: John Bohn Lanier's Lauren Brown (21), and teammate Taylor-Rose Gibson-Green (13) battle Central Gwinnett's Ashley Wilson for a rebound during the second period of a girls basketball semifinal game in the Lanier Christmas Tournament on Friday.

Staff Photo: John Bohn Lanier's Lauren Brown (21), and teammate Taylor-Rose Gibson-Green (13) battle Central Gwinnett's Ashley Wilson for a rebound during the second period of a girls basketball semifinal game in the Lanier Christmas Tournament on Friday.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Lanier's Lauren Brown (21) defends Central Gwinnett's Alex Frazier (5) during the first period of a girls basketball semifinal game in the Lanier Christmas Tournament on Friday.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Lanier's Amber Cesair (10) defends Central Gwinnett's Briana McGee (23) during the first period of a girls basketball semifinal game at the Lanier Christmas Tournament on Friday.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Lanier's Shelby Threlkeld (3) drives toward the basket while defended by Central Gwinnett's Jackie Finnegan (15) during the second period of a girls basketball semifinal game at the Lanier Christmas Tournament on Friday.

SUGAR HILL -- After Central Gwinnett's game with Lanier on Friday night in the semifinals of the Lanier Christmas Classic, girls basketball coach Jason Adams acknowledged that his team got off to a slow start.

Whatever doldrums Central started with went away in the second half, however, as the Black Knights surged ahead with a 17-0 run in the third to pull away for a 56-36 win over the Longhorns.

The win by Central (9-3) sets up a title match between two of the top teams from Region 7-AAAAAA and 8-AAAAAA as the Black Knights will face Mountain View at 6 p.m. for the tournament crown.

"We made a switch from our man-to-man pressure to a 3-2 zone and I thought that made a big difference," Adams said. "Offensively, we just struggled in the first half and we've got to get better."

That defensive switch turned out to be huge for Central. With two of his guards in early foul trouble, Adams was forced to mix things up, a move that turned out be a big part of the 21 turnovers committed by Lanier.

"We knew they were going to do that and we had a game plan in place," Lanier head coach David Palmer said. "We didn't make the right cuts and our turnovers led to them getting easy points."

Central built an early 12-point lead at 19-7 by the opening minutes of the second quarter when Lanier (4-8) began to chip its way back.

Lauren Brown, who finished with nine points for Lanier, scored four straight in the final 1:30 to bring the Longhorns within five at 22-17, but Central responded with the final four points of the first half to carry a 26-17 lead at the break.

Lanier scored on its opening possession of the third quarter when Shelby Threlkeld (nine points, four assists), fed Amber Cesair for a basket, but that would be the last points scored by Lanier for nearly the next six minutes.

During that stretch, Central received points from five different players as the Black Knights surged ahead for a 43-19 lead.

Even though Lanier closed out the third with two straight baskets, the deficit headed into the fourth at 43-23 was too great to overcome.

"Central can really push the ball up the court, they're one of the best at it," Palmer said.

Carol Reynolds led Central in scoring with 16 points while grabbing six rebounds, while Lexus Travis added 10 points and seven boards.

Alex Frazier, one of the guards who battled early foul trouble, fought her way through it to score seven points, while Jackie Finnegan and Briana McGee each scored seven. McGee also led the team in assists with six.

Top rebounder for Lanier was Taylor-Rose Gibson-Green with seven, along with her eight points.

Lanier will wrap up its tournament in the third-place game at 3 p.m. today against Lambert.

"We played (Mountain View) in our scrimmage and lost by two," Adams said. "They are a really good team and our girls know that if they are going to advance (in the playoffs), then we have to learn how to beat these good teams."