Gainesville’s Theo Stephens looked like he might score 50 points after a sizzling start for the Hurricanes on Senior Night against city rival Eastside.
And while he cooled off the rest of the game, Stephens’ 13 points in the first five minutes put Gainesville up by 15 in the opening period, and the Hurricanes never looked back in beating the Rams, 53-37, at the Purple Palace.
Gainesville swept the season series against Eastside and has won the last four meetings.
The Hurricanes never trailed as Stephens scored the first 10 points of the game and knocked down three 3-pointers in the period. Gainesville led 19-4 at one point in the quarter and took a 23-8 lead into the second period.
“He (Stephens) was really locked in,” Gainesville coach Mike Barnes said. “He’s just a really special player offensively and he kind of set the tone for the game.”
But Eastside came out hot in the second period, going on a 12-0 run and getting within 24-22.
But the Hurricanes scored the last nine points in the final two and a half minutes of the quarter to take a 33-22 lead into the break.
“I think we were a little too amped up,” Barnes said. “We crashed there a little bit in the second quarter, and credit to Eastside for getting back in the game.”
Eastside pulled within 40-33 going into the final period, but Gainesville turned up the defense in and outscored the Rams 13-4 in the fourth quarter.
Stephens scored a game-high 17 points and Jordan Bodie added 10 points.
Gainesville finishes the regular season 19-6 and went a perfect 6-0 against city rivals.
The Hurricanes are the No. 1 seed in District 2-6A and will host either Leon (Tallahassee) or Chiles (Tallahassee) next Wednesday in a semifinal matchup.
Eastside finishes the regular season 9-13. The Rams open the District 5-4A tourney against Keystone Heights.