On Friday night at Bud Seymour Gymnasium, visiting Gainesville High took advantage of a quick start to put away rival Buchholz in front of a standing room only crowd.
GHS scored 21 points in the opening quarter and was never really threatened in a 69-61 win against the host Bobcats in a Class 6A-District 2 game.
“It hasn’t happened to us a lot this year, but it was nice that we got off to a good start,” said GHS coach Mike Barnes, whose team won its fourth straight game. “Having guys who have been in this position before, last year as juniors, big city game, they were really excited before the game and I think it showed kind of at the start.”
Senior Theo Stephens scored six of his team-high 15 points in the first quarter. His second 3-pointer gave the Hurricanes (12-4) an early 16-9 lead, and Decarion Debose hit a 3-pointer with three seconds to play as GHS built a 21-11 lead after one quarter.
“I think the first quarter was the sealer,” said Buchholz coach Blake Golden. “I just think we gave up too many easy ones. I think it was the first play of the game, we kind of talked about it all week, not letting 44 (Anthony Leivonen) get loose and free, we just wanted to turn him into a driver in this one. But he got one early and I think it kind of opened the basket up, and opened the paint up, that set us off pretty good.”
The Hurricanes hit four of their 11 3-pointers in the opening quarter.
Then, almost three minutes into the second quarter, Seth Childers (7 points) hit a 3-pointer for a 24-11 lead, and Josh Hayes (12 points) hit back-to-back shots, including a dunk with 2:52 to play in the half as the Hurricanes built a 28-13 first half advantage.
Senior Jordan Bodie, who came off the bench to score 12 points, gave the ‘Canes their largest lead at 30-13 with a bucket.
“He’s kind of known as the defensive stopper for us,” Barnes said of Bodie. “He’s an extremely hard worker and I know the guys were excited when he hit shots and when he does well. It’s not unexpected because we know he has that in him.”
Buchholz point guard Tyler Gainey helped spark an 8-0 run with a 3-pointer with seven seconds to play in the second quarter as the Bobcats (8-9) cut it to single digits, 30-21, at the half.
“His energy was great tonight,” Golden said. “His focus has been great all week. It was a big game for him. He loves these moments. It’s when he plays his best and I thought he played really, really well in the second half.”
The senior added nine of his 17 points in the second half.
Buchholz got within eight, 38-30, on a 3-pointer by Jacob Sterck, who had 33 points on Wednesday night in the win against P.K. Yonge.
Sterck tied Gainey with game-high honors, followed by Ryan Webster with 16 points.
But it didn’t take GHS long to seize control again thanks to a 23-point third quarter.
Buchholz rallied late and got within six late, 64-58, on a 3-pointer by Sterck, but Childers hit two free throws with 38 seconds left and Stephens added two more with 17 seconds to play for a double-digit lead again (68-58) to ensure there would be no comeback.
“We had a couple of missed assignments on stuff we’ve worked on, and I think there was about three or four what I would call ‘grit plays’ that we didn’t make,” Golden said. “Late, Theo kind of pops the ball out and gets a little chippy (put back) in there, and there was another couple of loose balls that we’re not hitting the floor and I’ve got to call a timeout to make sure we secure the ball. Just being a little bit tougher and three, four or five more plays, I think gets us back in that game.”
Nine different players scored for GHS, highlighting a team effort on the road.
“It really was,” Barnes said. “It just makes us that much harder to guard when guys step up. We had 11 3s. Theo took a couple of tough ones and made them, but all the rest of them seemed to be on good ball movement and open looks. We’ve got guys who can step up and knock them down.”
Buchholz will travel to Forest (Ocala) on Tuesday, while Gainesville will host Columbia (Lake City). The tip for both games is at 7:30 p.m.
The GHS-Columbia will be broadcast online at Mainstreet Daily News as part of a busy January broadcast schedule.