By MacKenzie Bates
For The Times
Gainesville’s boys basketball program had a motto all season: keep fighting.
Rafael Rubel and Makius Scott took that to heart.
Rubel scored 42 points and Scott added 19 points and 11 rebounds as Gainesville won a 98-88 double-overtime thriller against Cambridge on Thursday in the second round of the Class 6A state tournament in Milton.
“What an awesome game,” Red Elephants head coach Chuck Graham said. “Awesome atmosphere, I think our kids played well enough to win the basketball game. We had some letdowns after going up by 10, they’d come back. We’d go up 8, they’d come back. I’m so proud of my guys for dealing with the adversity.”
With the win, Gainesville moves on to visit Tucker in the state quarterfinals at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.
After leading by as many as 14 in the third quarter, Gainesville (20-8) saw the lead evaporate to start the fourth as Cambridge went on a 25-9 run to take the lead in what was supposed to be the final frame. The Bears (20-9) would take a 65-60 lead on two free throws by Kamar Robertson.
“Coach called a timeout and he said, ‘Stay excited. Keep pushing the ball and we’re going to win,’” Rubel said.
Scott went to work down low, scoring nine straight points, to go up 69-65 with 1:49 remaining in regulation.
“It was a good team effort,” Scott said. “We were able to dominate inside. I practice my skills every day with my coach and all of the bigs. We stayed together in this game and came away with the win.”
“He’s had a limited role this season,” Graham said of Scott, who started for only the second time this season. ‘There’s something to be said about a guy who embraces his role. You start to play well within yourself. He’s a banger down low. He cleans the rebounds and he scores when we pass it to him.”
A few baskets later saw Cambridge go up 73-71 with 39 seconds remaining in the game. Rubel got a shot to go in with a few seconds remaining to force the first overtime possession.
After trading baskets in the first overtime period, Rubel got the ball back in his hands and hit a floater at the final horn to extend the game in to a second overtime.
Rubel then went to work, scoring 10 points in the extra period to help the Red Elephants stamp their ticket to the quarterfinals.
“We were calling a lot of iso (plays) and saw that the lane was open,” Rubel said. “(Cambridge) had trouble staying in front of me, so I just took it to the basket.”
The crazy part, believe it or not: Rubel didn’t play in the first quarter. He scored 36 points in the second half, 17 in both overtime periods.
“He kept his composure and played unbelievable,” Graham said. “We didn’t want to run that kind of offense, but he was hot. His number was called and he kept delivering. Tremendous effort.”
“We were trying different guys on him and it didn’t matter,” Cambridge coach Chip Flemmer said. “Even on the contested shots, he was hitting a bunch of those. He’s a phenomenal player.”
The Red Elephants got a staggering 58 points in the paint. They hit 41-of-84 shots from the field (48.8 percent). Walter Dixon had 14 points while Eli Pitts added 11 points for Gainesville.
“I believe in our guys,” Graham said. “These guys are learning to come together and play as a team. When that happens, they can do something special.”