There’s something special about city rivalry games.
Friday night’s showdown at The Purple Palace had the feel of a postseason game.
And in front of a standing-room only and energized crowd, the two rivals didn’t disappoint as the game came down to a final possession.
Gainesville High made one more big play than Buchholz in a 56-55 win at home.
“I was proud of the guys,” said Gainesville first-year coach Mike Barnes. “Buchholz chipped away at our lead. But at no point in time did our guys think we were going to lose this game so that’s growth for us. Everybody was locked in.”
Both teams started slow. In fact, Buchholz didn’t score until junior Gavin Hill made two free throws with 2:39 to play in the opening quarter.
Fortunately for Buchholz, the Hurricanes (9-7) only had six at the time.
GHS led 10-9 at the end of the quarter, but Theo Stephens took over and scored all nine of his first half points in the second quarter to give the ‘Canes a 28-19 lead at the half.
Then the Bobcats began to make their run, pulling within five at 38-33 at the end of the third quarter. The ‘Cats scored 22 points in the final period.
Senior Colsen Orth drained a pair of 3-point shots in the fourth quarter, including a step-back trey on the right wing with 2:52 to play to tie the game at 48-48.
“He’s still getting his legs back,” Golden said. “Colsen has played a lot of basketball. He’s been in a lot of big games through his career so having him finally get back into practice, and back healthy, I can finally start using some of these guys and it’s really now trying to find the mix.”
With the scored tied at 53-apiece, GHS senior R.J. Hines converted an and one with 18 seconds to play for a 56-53 lead.
“It was a loud crowd and an intense game,” Hines said. “I just locked in and let the game come to me.”
Buchholz (8-9) had the ball on the left baseline down 56-53 with three seconds to play, but instead of passing it on the perimeter, the Bobcats threw it inside to Orth who was wide open for a lay-up. Unfortunately, the clock ran out.
“We obviously didn’t make a very smart decision throwing the ball in there,” Golden tried to explain. “We had guys open we didn’t throw it to so I’m not sure what was going on. We’ll have to look at that on film.”
Gainesville defeated Buchholz for the 14th time in the past 15 meetings. The two teams will meet again at Buchholz on Friday, Jan. 28.
“This is a tough place to play,” said first-year coach Blake Golden. “We’ve struggled here forever. We’ve got to put the work in to do it. It’s not just going to be handed over to us. It’s something we’ve got to go and take. We’ve got to get better.”
Stephens led the Hurricanes with 15 points, followed by Hines with 10.
Gainesville High transfer Daryus Boyd led Buchholz with 16 points, followed by Orth with 11.
GHS will host Newberry on Monday, while Buchholz will host Vanguard (Ocala) on Tuesday.