A pressing defense in the fourth quarter was just what the Gainesville High girls basketball team needed Tuesday against Apalachee.
It was a much more aggressive approach than earlier in the game. And the change worked beautifully.
The Lady Red Elephants (10-5, 2-1 Region 8-6A) forced 12 turnovers in the final period, which helped seal a 63-49 victory in Gainesville. As a result of the defensive intensity, Gainesville was able to outscore Apalachee 24-12 in the final eight minutes.
Apalachee was marred with mistakes all night, accruing 24 total turnovers in the contest.
“The girls did a lights out job pressing in the fourth quarter. It really got us ahead,” Lady Red Elephants coach Alan Griffin said.
Leading scorer Tia Shelton (three steals), Tija Blackwell (22 points, six steals), Lauren Teasley and Kendal Glasper combined to make 14 of 17 free throws in the fourth quarter. Fourteen of Shelton’s game-high 23 points came down that final stretch, drawing plenty of whistles from inside the paint to notch a perfect 6-of-6 mark from the stripe and boost the Lady Red Elephants.
Apalachee (6-11, 0-3), while jumping ahead 10-0 early and dominating the boards to lead 10-6 after the first period, barely squeaked by with a one-point lead at halftime despite Gainesville’s spotty 7 of 28 shooting efforts from the floor. But, it wasn’t just the scoring duo of Shelton and Blackwell to turn things around in a see-saw second half. In the last two minutes of the third period, Gainesville made three straight from beyond the arc to erase a seven-point deficit, starting with an Ariah Jeffers’ bench-erupting 3 that cut it to 37-33.
Teasley went on to cap off the third-quarter flurry with a last-ditch heave that banked in at the third-quarter buzzer for a 39-37 Gainesville lead.
“That’s the first 3 she’s hit all year, and the bench knew it,” Griffin said of Jeffers. “The bench went crazy. ... And the shot that Lauren threw up in the end, just kind-of made everybody smile and wake up and go ‘OK here we go. We’re alright, let’s play.’”
Griffin also praised the play of Courtney Hawks and Jada Rucker, both chipping in valuable minutes off the bench to help the Lady Red Elephants recharge before the fourth quarter.
Nakia Hooks had 19 points and 15 rebounds for a double-double to pace the Lady Wildcats. Joanna Gross added 11 points for Apalachee, which have now lost four straight.
Gainesville continues its region slate Friday, when it plays Winder-Barrow at 7 p.m. in Winder.
GAINESVILLE BOYS 73, APALACHEE 64: Datavian Buffington fired off a team-high 16 points, while three more scorers accrued double digits as the Red Elephants (10-7, 2-0 Region 8-6A) stormed past the Wildcats for their sixth straight victory.
Eli Pitts knocked down four of Gainesville’s seven treys for the contest and finished with 14 points behind Buffington, followed by Maurice Hector with 11 and Rafael Rubel with 10.
Up 40-26 at halftime, the Red Elephants went on to lead by as much as 15 in the final period.
AJ Millbrooks paced the Wildcats (6-9, 0-2) with 18 points. Jamonte Wallace (12 points), Brayson Hayes (11) and Jay German (10) were others to produce for Apalachee.