Following an emotional win against Buchholz on Friday night, the Gainesville boys basketball team started slow against visiting Newberry on Monday night.
However, the Hurricanes erased a third quarter deficit with an 18-4 run and never trailed again in a 74-60 win against the Panthers.
“I think we were just a little lethargic,” said Gainesville coach Mike Barnes. “Friday took a lot out of us. We didn’t practice on Saturday or Sunday, and even when we were warming up for the game there was just a little bit of a hangover. Newberry’s a really good team. They took it to us the last time we played at their place, but we just did a better job defensively.”
The Panthers, who shot 62 percent in a 59-52 win on Dec. 16, led 12-9 at the end of the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Romance Bryant hit two 3-pointers off the bench to give Newberry, which is ranked second in the state in Class 1A, an 18-13 lead with 5:55 to play in the half, their biggest lead of the game.
However, Seth Childers answered with back-to-back 3-pointers for a 24-18 lead just three minutes later.
Childers, who finished with 19 points, hit four treys in the game. He also made 7-of-8 from the free throw line, all in the fourth quarter.
“He’s been struggling a bit shooting the ball but once he gets going it usually looks good, so I’m looking for this to turn him around,” Barnes said. “He knocked down his free throws at the end, handled the pressure well, and this is great to build on for Eastside on Friday.”
Theo Stephens caught fire in the second half, scoring 14 of his game-high 22 points in the third quarter.
“He’s kind of steady-Eddie,” Barnes said. “He’s a great player. He’s made a lot of progress since last year and he just lets the game come to him now and he’s turned into more of a leader on the court, off the court, and in practice. He’s playing with a lot of confidence.”
Down 33-31, Childers hit his fourth 3-pointer for a 34-33 lead just two minutes into the third quarter. Stephens scored to make it 36-33 and then converted an and one for a 39-33 lead and an 8-0 run.
“We started off slow, but Coach Barnes told us to work hard and play defense and we would win,” Stephens said.
The Hurricanes (10-7) turned up the defensive intensity and extended the run to 18-4 for a 49-37 lead. GHS would finish the quarter with 26 points and a 52-42 lead entering the final period.
The ‘Canes put the game away by making 14-of-16 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter.
“That’s going to win a lot of games if we can do that,” Barnes said. “It’s fun to play with the lead for once, a bigger lead, and have teams kind of chasing us as opposed to us chasing them so I think we’re turning the corner here. We’ve got something to build on from Friday and tonight.”
The Panthers (11-2), who were led by Michael Moore with 21 points, followed by Reggie White with 11, will travel to Bradford (Starke) on Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m.
Gainesville, which will host rival Eastside on Friday night at 7:30 p.m., will be guests on “The Prep Zone” sports show this Wednesday from 7-8 p.m. on 106.9 FM “I am Country,” which will also carry Friday night’s game.