Lanier boys ousted in first round

GAINESVILLE -- If there's one thing for sure, postseason tournament basketball looks nothing like the regular season.

Just ask the No. 2 seed out of Region 8-AAAA.

Four days after a convincing 76-60 victory over Madison County in the regular-season finale in Danielsville, Lanier returned to face the No. 7-seeded Red Raiders on Tuesday night in the quarterfinals of the 8-AAAA boys tournament.

But the result wasn't so favorable this time around for Lanier. The Longhorns dropped a 44-40 decision to Madison County.

For Lanier (16-10), which came into the region tournament with high hopes for a trip to the state tournament, it was a bitter end to the season.

Rebounding played a big role in the four-point win for Madison County (7-18). The shorter team with just two seniors on the squad was aggressive and pulled down 27 rebounds -- to just 22 for the taller and more experienced Longhorns.

"Rebounding just killed us all night long," Lanier head coach Jeremy Huckaby said. "We got our share of offensive rebounds, but they just seemed to come up with the big rebounds when it counted the most."

Lanier was also hampered by a poor start. The Longhorns never led in the first half and finally went ahead 30-29 with 1:02 left in the third quarter.

Tied at 12-12 after the first quarter, Madison County built a lead as big as eight at 22-14 in the second quarter.

Madison County extended the lead to double digits at 29-19 with 5:09 to go in the third quarter before Lanier finally gained some momentum as the Longhorns went on an 11-0 run to take a 30-29 lead.

But Madison County got the final points of the quarter to jump back in front 31-30 heading to the final eight minutes.

Lanier again went on a run and outscored Madison County 6-0 to take a 36-31 lead start the fourth quarter.

But the Red Raiders didn't fold and rallied to go up 40-39 with 2:16 left on Malik Freeman's offensive rebound and putback.

From there, Lanier could only muster a lone free throw, a turnover and an airball on a 3-point attempt in the final 1:18.

Meanwhile, Madison County hit a pair of free throws and scored an easy layup on an inbounds pass with 25 seconds left to seal the deal.

"(Madison County) did a great job of getting into us defensively and it neutralized our inside game," said Huckaby. "That pushed us out a little bit and we didn't do a good job of getting it back inside."

Peyton Smith led the Lanier attack with nine points and four assists while Matt Debczynski and Simon Shafack each had six points.

"This (loss) shouldn't diminish what we've accomplished this season," said Huckaby. "We finished second in the region and we have a great group of seniors. There is still a lot to be proud of."

Freeman led the way for Madison County with 15 points and nine rebounds while Kirkland Moon had 11 points and eight rebounds.

T.J. Skelton added seven points and three rebounds for Madison County, which qualified for the state tournament with the win and will take on Eastside in the semifinals.