The P.K. Yonge boys basketball team has turned a corner.
The Blue Wave, who like others have battled early season injuries, have gone from a losing record to five games over .500 since the new year began.
“The cohesiveness is coming together and we’re finally getting fully healthy as a team with key players recovering from some nagging injuries which prevented them from playing in the early part of the season,” said P.K. Yonge coach Boderick Johnson, whose team is 11-6 following a seven-game winning streak.
Tonight, they travel up 13th Street to The Purple Palace for a city showdown against Gainesville High.
In their last game against Bell at Hawthorne’s MLK Shootout on Monday, three players scored in double figures for the Blue Wave in a 72-41 rout of the Bulldogs.
Sophomore Jordan Richardson led P.K. Yonge with 15 points, followed by junior Eli Harris and freshman Patton Pinkins with 13 points apiece.
One of the biggest wins during the streak was a 59-58 come-from-behind win at Class 6A Forest (Ocala) during the MLK Classic this past Saturday night.
“The leaders admitted in the locker room at halftime that as a team, maximum effort wasn’t being given and they held each other accountable in the second half and locked in better defensively,” Johnson said.
The Blue Wave, who have gotten Aaron Small Jr. and Palmer Pressley back from injury, also won at Trinity Catholic (Ocala), 49-38, last Tuesday. The Celtics (15-3) are currently ranked eighth in the state in Class 3A by MaxPreps.
Class 3A P.K. Yonge is looking to sweep the two-game series against the Class 6A Hurricanes. The Blue Wave won the first meeting at home, 44-40, on Dec. 7. Junior Randall Robinson led the Blue Wave in the first meeting with 14 points.
“It’s a city rivalry game and those are always tough especially since it’s going to be at their place,” Johnson said. “They (GHS) will be really focused and I’m sure would like to avenge the earlier loss to us.”
Gainesville also enters with a little momentum, after winning five of its last six games.
“I think we have done a better job of executing when it matters most,” said Gainesville coach Mike Barnes, who has defeated rivals Buchholz and Eastside in his first season as varsity coach. “We have had a couple of close wins where our guys were able to make plays at the end of games to put us over the top.”
GHS (11-7) defeated rival Eastside, 45-36, last Friday. The win snapped a seven-game losing streak in the series.
Junior Theo Stephens sparked a 5-0 run to start the third quarter against the Rams and finished with a game-high 14 points. Junior Seth Childers added 11.
The Hurricanes also defeated Class 1A No. 1 Newberry, 74-60, last Monday.
“My guys have shown great perseverance during these last few weeks,” Barnes said. “We may get down or be in tight situations, but they have found a way to get the job done.”
Barnes got a chance to scout P.K. Yonge on Monday.
“They are a talented team who have been on a roll of late,” he said. “They are playing with a lot of confidence. What I like about them is that they all share the ball with each other and trust each other.”
Barnes said P.K. Yonge isn’t afraid to shoot the 3-pointer.
“And they really rebound well on the offensive glass,” he said. “On Saturday, they were able to come back from a pretty large deficit versus Forest. That shows, no matter the score, they aren’t the type of team that will give up.”
Barnes said “it will take a tremendous effort Wednesday to come out on top vs P.K.”
“Our defense versus them in the first game was pretty solid,” Barnes said. “We put them on the foul line too much and they hurt us there. We have to finish better down low. We struggled in the first game putting the ball in the basket.”
Stephens had 19 in the first meeting, but the Hurricanes only scored one field goal in the final quarter against the Blue Wave, who have now won three in a row in the series.
“We have to be solid defensively and finish defensive possessions by rebounding,” Barnes said. “Offensively, I feel we are sharing the ball much better these last few weeks. That will have to continue.”
Barnes said it should be a good game.
“Coach Johnson does a good job with his guys,” he said. “City games are always fun. We are looking forward to the challenge Wednesday night at The Palace.”
The game will be broadcast online (audio only) at MainStreetDailyNews.com beginning at 7:15 p.m. with Marty Pallman and Cam Parker announcing. The tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.