Losing the Region 8-6A championship game was much less frustrating, considering where the season started for Gainesville’s boys. After going 0-10 to open the season, the Red Elephants regrouped the rest of the regular season and into the region tournament before dropping the title game to Lanier, 68-57, on Monday in Gainesville.
Despite the loss, the Red Elephants took the No. 2 spot in region and will open the postseason in Gainesville either Friday or Saturday. Game time and opponent are still to be determined.
In the game pushed back two days due to Saturday’s snow, the Red Elephants kept it close for almost the entire first three quarters. Then, the dominant inside presence of the Longhorns led by senior Sion James (28 points, 14 rebounds) took over. Gainesville trailed by a single point with 1:50 left in the third quarter after a basket by Walt Dixon, then the Tulane commit James got a pair of putback baskets before the end of the period to make it a 7-point hole for the Red Elephants.
James continue to play his best in the second half for the Longhorns (22-5), starting with a basket off the backboard with a hand in his face with 5:30 left to play. Lanier’s leading scorer hit four straight free throws in the final two minutes, following a 3-pointer by Gainesville’s Eli Pitts, to make it a double-digit hole for the Red Elephants.
Donsha Gaither finished with a game-high 17 points for the Red Elephants, while Dylan Bobga hit six free throws and finished with 11 points. Dee Buffington had 12 points for Gainesville.
After Andrew McConnell’s 3-pointer for Lanier late in the first quarter, Bobga stepped to the line and made both free throws to make in 17-15 Longhorns after the first period.
Lanier would push its lead to six points with 5:45 after two open layups, but Bobga made a basket and Buffington hit both free throws to draw within 25-23 with 4:10 left in the opening half. Gainesville made baskets seven times in the first half to draw to within 2 points. However, five missed layups by the Red Elephants also hurt the cause.
The second time Gainesvillle tied the score in the third quarter was with Gaither’s pair of free throws.
The Red Elephants finished the regular season losing all three meetings to the Longhorns.
Gainesville’s regular season turned by winning all three to claim the Lanierland championship in December, then followed by winning four straight to open region play.