Entering Thursday night’s city showdown against rival Eastside at Bud Seymour Gymnasium, the Buchholz boys basketball team had lost eight straight to the Rams.
But in front of a capacity crowd—on a night former Bobcats greats Vernon “Mad Max” Maxwell and Lamar Thomas were honored—Buchholz rode the momentum for a 47-33 win.
It was the first time that the Bobcats had beaten the Rams since 2017.
“I think the biggest part of tonight was getting our guys to calm down a little bit because there was going to be that adrenaline dump at some point,” said first-year Buchholz coach Blake Golden. “We kind of went through those little bumps, but just having this night tonight was just so good. So many people reached out and some may never come to a game again and that’s going to be their impression of Buchholz basketball.”
The Bobcats (3-4) got a spark off the bench from sophomore Palmer Walton, who hit two shots behind the arc to give Buchholz an 11-10 lead at the end of the first quarter.
“I was just trying to do my role and help the team win this game because it was a huge night for us,” Walton said. “This is a big night for my family and the team.”
Walton hit another 3-pointer in the second quarter and finished with a team-high 11 points.
“Palmer’s great because he is ultra-confident,” Golden said. “The moment is never too big. He just goes out there and does his job and makes open shots and moves the ball when he’s supposed to move the ball. He’s just a great, tough player.”
A Walton three and a thunderous dunk by Daryus Boyd, who finished with seven points, gave the Bobcats a 19-9 lead with 5:20 to play in the first half.
The Bobcats built a 16-point lead on a tip-in by senior Hayden Findley with under two minutes to play in the half for a 28-12 lead.
“It feels really good,” Findley said about the win against the Rams. “It’s the first time we’ve beaten Eastside since I was a freshman. It feels really good to hammer it home on them and do it as a team and not selfishly. I think we really came together tonight and this will help bond us for the rest of the season.”
Eastside (1-4) had gotten within seven at 30-23 on a basket by Ben Davis, who led the Rams in scoring with 11 points but fouled out with 2:23 to play.
However, Findley, who finished with nine points, was all over the glass and he had two quick buckets in the third quarter to extend the lead back to 16 at 39-23.
“His rebounding is amazing,” Golden said. “The way he tracks the ball off the rim and the way he just keeps plays alive. There are probably six to seven plays a game that he has no business keeping alive but he’s able to dive and reach a ball or tip a ball back and he just gives us those extra possessions.”
Quashawn Brittingham added eight points for Eastside, which will play at P.K. Yonge at 6:30 p.m. on Friday.
Buchholz, which also got eight points from junior Taybin Riggins, will travel to Fleming Island (Orange Park) for the Battle on the Island Green Championship Division. The Bobcats will open up with Ribault (Jacksonville) on Tuesday at 3:45 p.m.