Both Gainesville basketball teams found out Saturday that a large hole is hard to climb out of.
The Lady Red Elephants found themselves down 21-3 at the end of the first quarter, and despite improving their shooting percentage by 12 percent from the first half to the second, were unable to recover en route to a 53-36 loss to Class A’ top-ranked Wesleyan at Gainesville High.
For the boys, a back-and-forth battle got out of hand in the third quarter as Gainesville found itself down by 16 points. Despite a valient defensive effort in the third quarter, the Red Elephants ran out of time and lost 76-69 to Class A’s fifth-ranked Wesleyan.
Defense was the name of the game in the girls’ contest as Wesleyan’s fullcourt press caused 28 Gainesville turnovers, 12 in the first quarter alone.
As if that wasn’t enough, Erin Hall — the Lady Wolves’ top scorer on the night with 14 points — hit for 10 first-quarter points including two 3-pointers to help her team start out shooting a scorching 72 percent from the field.
However, despite the early 18-point deficit combined with the relentless defensive pressure of Wesleyan, the Lady Red Elephants didn’t give up.
Gainesville (8-8, 5-1 Region 7-AAA) matched the Lady Wolves (15-3,4-0 Region 7-A) point for point over the next three quarters, and outscored them 11-10 in the fourth quarter.
Wesleyan maintained its 18-point through three quarters, but Gainesville cut it to 11 points with a 7-0 run to start the fourth quarter.
In that run, Mikalyn DeFoor hit a jumper, Jayme Carnes got her third field goal of the game and Kate Callahan hit a big 3-pointer.
Loren Thomas dished out all three assists in that run, but the 11-point margin was as close as Gainesville would get as Wesleyan quickly pushed its lead back to 15 and the game out of reach as it hit for four straight capped by a Hall pass to Logan Morris for a 3-pointer.
Wake Forest signee Carnes led Gainesville with 13 points, five rebounds and five blocks.
Rebecca Webster added 10 points for the Lady Red Elephants while junior Callahan had eight points, two assists, five rebounds and one block.
In the boys’ game, the Red Elephants won the battle on the boards, outrebounding Wesleyan 28-20 and won the turnover battle, only committing 9 to Wesleyan’s 18, but couldn’t come up with a win on the scoreboard.
Gainesville (7-8, 4-2 Region 7-AAA) looked strong from the onset going on a 6-0 run after falling behind 6-5 sparked by four straight points by Chris West, including an emphatic dunk.
Wesleyan (13-4, 4-0 Region 7-A) came back to tie it at 13 before Blake Sims, who finished with a game-high 25 points, three rebounds, four steals and four assists, hit a baseline jumper as the first quarter buzzer sounded to give his team the lead back.
“At times tonight we were good and at times we were not so good,” Gainesville coach Todd Cottrell said. “We had an emotional win (Friday) and I’m not sure our energy was where it needed to be.
“We expected that, but I guarantee you, we won’t accept that.”
Down 15-13, Wesleyan opened the second quarter on a 7-2 run with all seven points coming on the shooting of Andrew Frerking, who finished the night with 23 points, including five 3-pointers.
Gainesville came back late in the second quarter to make it a two-point ballgame heading into the second half, but the third quarter proved to be the difference maker.
With his team a bit dead-legged after a subregion bout with Johnson on Friday night, Cottrell made the decision to rest his starters for the better part of the third quarter and play his second team.
A group that he says usually provides a energetic spark for the Red Elephants, found themselves a bit outmatched as Wesleyan opened on a 12-6 run to push its lead to eight points, and then continued the offensive onslaught to make it a 16-point game by the end of the third quarter.
Frerking had nine points, all on 3-pointers, in the third quarter.
“Our second team usually has a lot of energy and they did tonight, but we left shooters open and it ballooned on us,” Cottrell said.
With the starters back on the floor to start the fourth quarter, Gainesville once again came roaring back, going on a 12-4 run thanks to offensive rebounds, putbacks and a renewed energy on the defensive end — the Red Elephants forced nine Wesleyan turnovers in the final period.
Chris West, who finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds for Gainesville, along with A.J. Johnson were the catalyts as they combined for six offensive rebounds, nine points and two steals in a quarter in which the Red Elephants outscored Wesleyan 26-17.
Johnson finished the night with 13 points, seven rebounds and three steals.
Sims was also big in the final period, driving to the hole and either making the basket or getting fouled en route to 12 fourth-quarter points.
It wasn’t enough, however, as Wesleyan hit 13 of 17 free throws down the stretch with Gainesville forced to foul.
“(Wesleyan) shot the ball well from the outside,” Cottrell said, “and sometimes you can’t do anything about that.
“Our guys competed tonight, we put them in a tough spot having them play two tough opponents on back-to-back nights, but they played hard and competed and I’m proud of them.”
Gainesville returns to action Tuesday at West Hall with the girls’ game starting at 6 p.m. and the boys’ at 7:30 p.m.