The Gainesville boys basketball team came within a possession of upsetting Archer on two occasions in Wednesday’s Class 7A state tournament matchup.
But the host Tigers made clutch plays at the end of regulation and overtime to secure a 63-61 victory.
Despite the loss, Red Elephants coach Chuck Graham said he couldn’t be more proud of the way his team played, fighting back from an 11-point second-half deficit to get back to even by the end of regulation.
“I’m proud of the effort and I’m proud of those kids,” Graham said. “They laid it all on the line tonight. We have nothing to be ashamed of.”
The game’s momentum shifted back and forth throughout the contest.
Archer ran out to an early lead in the first quarter, scoring the first 6 points of the game, but Gainesville put together a 9-0 run of its own to go up in front for the first time. Robert Reisman, who led the Red Elephants offensively with 24 points, hit back-to-back layups, forcing the Tigers into a timeout halfway through the opening frame.
Archer got hot again from there, and went back in front by a point by the end of one.
The second quarter was much of the same, with a 6-0 Gainesville run and 7-0 Archer spurt highlighting another constantly-shifting period.
The Tigers went up by as much as five toward the end of the quarter, but a late layup from Reisman made it a 3-point game going into the half.
Gainesville started to fall further behind quickly in the third frame, getting down by double-digits for the first time, but were boosted by a couple of late 3s from Dylan Bobga. Another Reisman make right before the end of the frame got the Red Elephants to within 2 points going into the fourth and put the momentum back on their side.
Gainesville tied the game up for the first time since the second quarter with an Eli Pitts basket early in the fourth. A hit by Ced Nicely and a 3-point play from Reisman put the Red Elephants ahead by 3 with less than three minutes left to play.
The teams continued to battle back and forth as the clock wound down, and Gainesville was holding onto a 1-point advantage with just 15 seconds left. The Red Elephants were able to stop the shot of Archer’s Major Freeman, but did foul him, and he went 1 of 2 from the line to send the game to overtime.
Gainesville made just one shot in the extra period, but still had a chance to win the game at the end. The Red Elephants had the ball down by 2 with 20 seconds left, but struggled to get a clean shot up on the final possession.
After the game, Graham said the team was hurting at the moment, but that he hopes to make them see the positive in their performance as soon as the emotions have cooled off a little bit.
“Nothing I can say can take the pain away, but we’ve got to take those tears and turn them into sweat for next year,” Graham said. “And to our seniors, they’ll always be a part of the Red Elephant family.”