For three and half quarters of Tuesday night's Region 1-6A semifinal at the Purple Palace, the Gainesville Hurricanes couldn't shake nor catch the Oakleaf (Orange Park) Knights.
But Gainesville found the momentum in the final four minutes and it was the Hurricanes’ defense that finally put Oakleaf away.
Gainesville went on a 12-2 run and held the Knights to only four points in the final period as the Hurricanes held off Oakleaf, 47-42, to advance to Friday's regional final.
Gainesville, the No. 2 seed in Region 1, will play at top-seeded Ponte Vedra on Friday night with the winner advancing to the 6A state semifinals in Lakeland next Friday. Ponte Vedra beat Gulf Breeze, 61-42, in the other Region 1-6A semifinal.
Senior Theo Stephens got off to a hot start for Gainesville (23-6) in the opening quarter, scoring six points. But Oakleaf pulled ahead to a 15-13 lead after the opening eight minutes.
"They (Oakleaf) were really good defensively and did a really good job denying us the ball and disrupting our offense," Barnes said. "When that happens you just kind of have to play basketball. I was telling the guys just keep trying to attack and stop flailing around looking for the foul call."
The second quarter saw many lead changes. Oakleaf led most of the period but Gainesville cut the deficit to 23-21 at the half with Stephens scored 12 of his game-high 18 points in the opening half.
Meanwhile, senior Josh Hayes, an Appalachian State signee, didn't score at all in the first half and ended up with only six points. But Hayes took over defensively, picking up key blocks and rebounds.
"Their big guy is a really good player and he did a really good job on him (Hayes)," Barnes said. "But Josh and our defense really won this game tonight, and it was good to win a game where we didn't play our best."
Oakleaf led by as many as six points in the third quarter and carried a 38-35 lead into the final eight minutes.
With Oakleaf leading 40-35 halfway through the fourth quarter, senior Jordan Bodie knocked down a three-pointer and then scored another basket to tie the game at 40-all. Hayes scored inside to give the Hurricanes the lead and Stephens hit four free throws late to put Oakleaf away.
Bodie was the only other double-figure scorer for Gainesville with 11 points.
Oakleaf, who had won 19 games in a row coming in, finishes the season at 24-2.
Tuesday, Feb. 21 (Results)
Class 6A-Region 1
2 Gainesville 47, 2 Oakleaf (Orange Park) 42
Class 5A-Region 1
3 Columbia (Lake City) 69, 2 Booker T. Washington (Pensacola) 55
Class 4A-Region 2
1 Santa Fe (Alachua) 60, 5 Cocoa 38
Class 1A-Region 3
2 Hawthorne 43, 1 Newberry 41
Class 1A-Region 4
2 Williston 66, 1 Wildwood 63