All year long, Gainesville’s boys basketball team has taken pride in playing as a team. And in the first round of the state playoffs against Eastside, the Red Elephants proved that playing as a team is the best thing they can do.
Four players scored in double figures and Gainesville (19-8) held Eastside’s leading scorer Neal Latimore to 13 points as the Red Elephants cruised to a 66-43 win over the Eagles (9-16) in the first round of the Class AAA state playoffs Friday at Gainesville High.
“I feel like we’re playing good basketball right now, and I think we’ll continue to get better,” Gainesville coach Todd Cottrell said. “I was real proud of our guys, especially defensively.”
The boys team provided a happy ending for the Gainesville faithful, who watched the top-seeded Lady Red Elephants lose to Hart County 45-42 in overtime.
Cottrell said that seeing the girls lose played no part in the boys game.
“Our heart goes out to the girls,” he said. “We didn’t use their loss as any sort of motivation.”
They didn’t need to, as the boys came out hot from beyond the 3-point line, making four of their first seven attempts.
“It’s always nice to hit them early,” Cottrell said of the made 3s. “Especially against a good shooting team like Eastside.”
Leading the Red Elephants from beyond the arc were Blake Sims, George Manomano and Juwon Jeffries, who combined for eight of the team’s nine 3-pointers. Sims led all scorers with 16 points, while Manomano and Jeffries each scored 15. Nick Johnson finished one rebound shy of a double-double and scored 10 points.
“It’s a team effort,” Manomano said. “We’re all in this together and we have been all year.”
The Red Elephants’ defense flustered Eastside all night, holding Latimore to 13 points and second-leading scorer Cameron Robinson to 16.
While Latimore struggled late in the game, he helped keep the score close in the first half by making his first three 3-pointers, and his tip in at the end of the half cut Gainesville’s lead to 10.
Ten points was apparently too close for Manomano.
The senior guard scored seven of his team’s first nine points in the third quarter to help Gainesville build a 19-point lead.
Jeffries’ two 3-pointers to start the fourth quarter helped boost the lead to 21 and seal the first opening round win for Gainesville since 2006.
Gainesville will play the winner of today’s Ridgeland/Druid Hills game. Gainesville’s second round game is Wednesday with a time to be determined.
Hart County girls 45, Gainesville 42 (OT)
An uncharacteristically sloppy game by the Lady Red Elephants ended their season on Friday in Gainesville.
The Lady Red Elephants (18-10) turned the ball over 26 times, including seven times in overtime to allow the Lady Bulldogs (18-11) escape Gainesville with a first-round upset.
“Tonight, for whatever reason, we never clicked,” Gainesville coach Manson Hill said. “For some reason we had a bad game and it was a bad time to have it.”
Hill credited Hart County’s physical style of play to the majority of the turnovers, and that the offense was rarely run all night.
“We knew they were a very physical and athletic team and we tried to prepare for it all week,” Hill said. “We obviously didn’t prepare enough, and that falls on me.”
Junior Jaymee Carnes was a bright spot for Gainesville, scoring a game-high 18 points and pulling down 10 rebounds. Kiki Thompson finished with nine points for the Lady Red Elephants, who took only one shot and failed to score in overtime.
“It’s a very disappointing end to a team that I really enjoyed coaching,” Hill said.