After a tough three-game stretch against good competition, the Buchholz boys basketball team found itself struggling offensively.
But that changed in a big way on Wednesday night as the Bobcats rallied from an early deficit to rout cross-town rival P.K. Yonge, 78-63, at home.
“We’ve had a really, really tough schedule as of late and when you’re losing it doesn’t feel like it’s paying off,” said Buchholz coach Blake Golden. “But on a night like tonight, it really does feel like it’s paid off. We weren’t afraid of the moment tonight, which was nice.”
It was a season high in points for the Bobcats (8-8), who had three players score in double figures.
Leading the way was 6-foot-5 guard Jacob Sterck.
The senior scored 21 of his game-high 33 points in the second half, including a 13-point third quarter, as the Bobcats pulled away in the second half.
“I think his play comes from us being really unselfish and getting the right shot for Buchholz, not the right shot for the kid,” Golden said. “That’s where we’ve tried to be all year but it hasn’t necessarily happened. Tonight, was a perfect example of that.”
Buchholz, which has averaged just 45.3 points in its last three games against Creekside Christian Academy (McDonough, GA), Class 7A fourth-ranked Lake Worth, and The Rock’s national team, eclipsed that total in the third quarter.
Up six at the half, 33-27, Sterck took control with a quick basket on the Bobcats’ first possession of the quarter.
“At halftime, coach said ‘if you’re going to be a top team in Gainesville you’ve got to step on their throats, you’ve got to kill them right now,’” said Sterck, who scored 40 points in an AAU game.
Sterck, who finished with five 3-pointers, drained a trey for a 43-30 lead in the third quarter. It was one of three shots that he made behind the arc in the quarter.
Teammate Ryan Webster also hit a 3-pointer as part of a 24-point quarter.
Buchholz made four of its eight 3s in the decisive quarter.
“That’s where I thought we’d kind of be at all year,” Golden said. “Some of our games we struggled a little bit because our shot selection hasn’t been great. Either a little quick, feet not set, but then tonight I thought our process was phenomenal and it led to the score and how it was.”
But P.K. Yonge (6-8) kept battling despite struggling from the floor.
Moses Horne, who led the Blue Wave with 23 points, hit a 3-pointer with 1:13 left in the third quarter to bring the Blue Wave within 14 at 54-40.
It was just P.K. Yonge’s second field goal of the quarter at the time.
A 3-pointer by sophomore Jantzen Griffin made it 54-43 with just under a minute to play in the quarter, and Horne knocked down two free throws with 28 seconds left to cut it to single digits at 54-45.
But Sterck answered again, hitting a 3-pointer with five seconds to play to give Buchholz a 57-45 lead heading into the final quarter.
The momentum carried over as Webster scored seven of his 15 points in the fourth and junior Palmer Walton’s dunk gave the Bobcats a 71-51 lead with 3:15 to play.
Walton scored eight of his 14 points in the second quarter, including a 4-point play that gave Buchholz a 22-21 lead midway through the second quarter.
Horne made three 3-pointers in the opening quarter as P.K. Yonge led 17-14 at the end of the first quarter.
However, the Bobcats outscored the Blue Wave 19-10 in the second quarter and never trailed again.
Senior Eli Harris also scored in double figures for the Blue Wave with 15 points, including 9-of-12 from the free throw line.
It was the first of two meetings between the two rivals.
P.K. Yonge, which travels to Hawthorne next Thursday, will host Buchholz on Jan. 31.
Buchholz will host rival Gainesville this Friday night at 7:30 p.m. The Bobcats defeated the Hurricanes in overtime in the previous meeting last January.
“It doesn’t matter what our records are versus Gainesville,” Golden said. “They’re having a great year. I love Coach Barnes. He’s one of my good friends in this industry. He’s doing a great job with those guys and we’re excited for the opportunity on Friday.”