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Gainesville boys need 'execution and toughness' during demanding four-game stretch
Red Elephants (10-3) will tackle Apalachee, South Gwinnett, Wheeler and Winder-Barrow in next 5 days
Flowery Branch's Brannon Clark (10) guards Gainesville's Tae Turner (2) Friday night during last week's game at Flowery Branch High School. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Gainesville's schedule from Friday, Dec. 15 to Tuesday, Dec. 19

Friday - Home vs. Apalachee, 8:30 p.m.

Saturday - Home vs. South Gwinnett, 2:30 p.m.

Monday - At Wheeler, 3 p.m.

Tuesday - Home vs. Winder-Barrow, 7:30 p.m. 

Gainesville boys basketball coach Benjie Wood is expecting his team to show execution and toughness ahead of its loaded upcoming schedule of four games in five days.

The Red Elephants (10-3, 8-0 Region 8-AAAAA) are readying themselves to tackle defending Class AAAAAA champions Wheeler in Marietta on Monday, in between home region tests against Apalachee tonight and Winder-Barrow on Tuesday.

Gainesville also has an added home game against South Gwinnett at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

Both non-region games against South Gwinnett and Wheeler were recently added to the schedule, and were officially signed into contract this week.

“We’re certainly going to be tested,” said Wood. “But it’s going to be good for us. We’ll need a lot of toughness and focus and execution. We’re proud of our kids, and feel like we have good depth. Whoever steps in will be expected to execute.”

The pick of the four matchups will be against Wheeler at 3 p.m. Monday. The Wildcats (12-5, 9-0 in Region 5-AAAAAA) competed in a national tournament last April following their 59-58 win over Pebblebrook in last season’s state title game in Macon.

The Wildcats, winners of five state titles since 2002, are coached by Gainesville High graduate Doug Lipscomb.

Wheeler has competed in three invitational tournaments so far this season, squaring up against teams from North Carolina, Florida, Indiana and New York.

“You watch them, you’ll see, they’re very talented,” said Wood. “It’s a super tough game for us, but a great challenge. It’s what is going to make us better.”

On Saturday, the Red Elephants host South Gwinnett (6-11) in a non-region test. The Comets are riding a three-game losing skid, but fought tough at Grayson (15-2) in a recent 58-56 loss.

But Gainesville must also leave gas in the tank against region foes Apalachee (13-3, 6-2) and Winder-Barrow (1-14, 1-7).

The Wildcats are on a seven-game win streak dating back to Dec. 28, and are led by Butler University signee Kamar Baldwin. Gainesville will also visit Apalachee on Feb. 2 ahead of the Region 8-AAAAA tournament.

Winder-Barrow has lost 10 straight games, as of Thursday. Gainesville will finish the regular season with a road trip to Winder to take on the Bulldoggs.

“I hope that this stretch will test us toughness-wise,” said Wood. “When you get tired, toughness shows. You have to execute when you’re tired. I just want us to focus on the process.”