Red Devils flex their muscle, clamp down on GHS

Williston's Javon Brown (2) and Deandre Harvey (5) defend Gainesville's Craig Thomas.
Williston's Javon Brown (2) and Deandre Harvey (5) defend Gainesville's Craig Thomas.
Photo by C.J. Gish

The Williston boys basketball team wasted little time in putting away visiting Gainesville High on Tuesday night.

The Red Devils rallied from a 2-0 deficit with 11 unanswered points and built a 30-point lead at the half on their way to an easy 71-46 win against the Hurricanes.

Defense set the tone for the defending 1A state champions as an 18-4 lead at the end of the first quarter ended with a 42-12 lead at intermission.

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Williston's Kyler Lamb makes a basket against Gainesville's Cornelius White.
Photo by C.J. Gish Williston’s Kyler Lamb makes a basket against Gainesville’s Cornelius White.

“That’s something we take pride in is our defense,” said Williston coach Jim Ervin. “We’ve picked it up the second half of the year. We’re actually getting out and putting pressure on the ball and rotating well. So that was the difference in the first quarter, our defensive intensity, I believe.”

It only took GHS (12-9) five seconds to take the first lead of the game on a basket by sophomore Craig Thomas for a quick 2-0 lead.

However, the Red Devils (20-2) got a 3-pointer from sophomore Deandre Harvey (13 points) for a 3-2 lead with 5:57 remaining in the first quarter and they never trailed again.

A 3-pointer just 10 seconds into the second quarter by senior Aramys Rodriguez put the finishing touches on a 7-0 run, and the Red Devils finished the half on a 10-0 run. 

Junior Giovanni Wright gave Williston a big lift off the bench, scoring eight straight points of his own on a pair of 3-pointers, plus a steal and a layup. He was second in scoring with 15 points.

“He’s just a pure shooter,” Ervin said. “He’s a knockdown shooter. Gio is really working hard, he gives effort. He’s a kid that doesn’t start, doesn’t get a lot of minutes but he’s all about team. He’s the first one in the locker room getting a chant going and when he’s on the bench he never has a letdown. When he comes on the court it shows.”

Rodriguez, who scored nine in the first half, finished with a game-high 18 points and eight assists.

“He’s finally healthy,” Ervin said. “He missed the first part of the season with an ankle injury that occurred during the first day of practice, so he’s finally getting healthy.”

Gainesville's Anthony Leivonen and Brendan Bloodworth (12) defend Williston's Deandre Harvey.
Photo by C.J. Gish Gainesville’s Anthony Leivonen and Brendan Bloodworth (12) defend Williston’s Deandre Harvey.

Ervin said he is starting to get his mobility back.

“I think he’s one of the best point guards in the region, in the area, maybe one of the tops in the state just how he can control a basketball game,” he said. “Not only can he score but he facilitates and gets his teammates involved quite often, and he does a great job on the boards.”

The Hurricanes didn’t give up, outscoring the Red Devils, 18-15, in the third quarter thanks to senior Anthony Leivonen, who scored 10 of his 11 points.

“At halftime, we talked about (playing) four games in five days,” Irvin said. “So, we knew coming out of halftime we were going to be a little winded, and the legs were a little weary, so we talked about finishing the game, more importantly finishing as a team…we kept each other involved so that was very important.”

The Red Devils finished the game with 21 assists. They had 12 at halftime.

But likely none flashier than an alley-oop from Rodriguez to senior Javon Brown (14 points) for a dunk with eight seconds left in the half and a 30-point lead heading into the locker room.

“Javon Brown is just an exciting player,” Ervin said. “Once he gets going, his teammates get going. That halftime dunk was one of the best high school dunks I’ve seen in a while…that was pretty outstanding.”

Both teams have big games coming up on Friday night at 7:30 p.m.

Williston will host Newberry in a matchup of the top two teams in the state in Class 1A.

GHS, which was led by junior Cornelius White with 12 points, will travel to crosstown rival Buchholz. The Bobcats won the first matchup in The Purple Palace, 50-41, on Dec. 8.

The GHS-Buchholz game will be broadcast online at Mainstreet Daily News (audio only) beginning at 7:15 p.m.

Williston's Quincy Parker goes for a steal against Gainesville's Cordarius White.
Photo by C.J. Gish Williston’s Quincy Parker goes for a steal against Gainesville’s Cordarius White.
Williston's Giovanni Wright dribbles around Gainesville's Simon Childers.
Photo by C.J. Gish Williston’s Giovanni Wright dribbles around Gainesville’s Simon Childers.
Photo by C.J. Gish
Gainesville's Cornelius White looks to pass against Williston's Kyler Lamb.
Photo by C.J. Gish Gainesville’s Cornelius White looks to pass against Williston’s Kyler Lamb.
Williston's Aramys Rodriguez puts up a shot against Gainesville's Aiden Bell.
Photo by C.J. Gish Williston’s Aramys Rodriguez puts up a shot against Gainesville’s Aiden Bell.

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