Class AAA semifinals
When: 5:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Macon Centreplex
All season long, Gainesville has used its depth to tire teams out. That strategy has the Red Elephants two wins away from a state title.
But their depth is unique. Gainesville (21-8) doesn’t have 20-point scorers, or even 10-point scorers coming off the bench; that’s not their role. The six guys that enter the game after the tip are there to provide energy, defense and most importantly, a chance to provide the starters a time to rest.
“I really like the makeup of our team,” Gainesville coach Todd Cottrell said. “We’re carrying a roster of 17 players and all of them are really good players. We’ve fallen into a rotation of about 10 or 11 players with the most minutes going to five or six guys.”
The subs don’t seem to care about how many minutes they play.
“As long as we get the ‘W’ it’s all good,” said junior Ty Redmon, who provides a spot-up shooter and defensive intensity off the bench. “Coming off the bench was hard at first, but we’ve gotten used to it.”
That’s in large part because they know how much of an impact they have on the game’s outcome.
Whether it’s D.J. McDuffie or Chris West providing versatility on the perimeter, or freshman Javez Warren successfully running the point, their roles are clearly defined with no role more clear than that of senior Brock Boleman.
“I come in to dominate the paint,” said Boleman, who at 6-foot-6 is the tallest player on the roster.
While he was clearly joking, at least Boleman knows his role, and for Cottrell that’s the most important thing.
“The guys have adjusted to their roles really well,” said the first-year coach of the Red Elephants. “What I really like about this team is nobody is more important than anyone else, whether they get the minutes or not. That’s a quality a lot of good teams have to have.”
Gainesville certainly qualifies as a good team.
After starting the year 0-3, the Red Elephants have won nine games in a row and 16 of their last 17. They finished the year a perfect 11-0 at home, thanks in large part to their fans and the guys coming off the bench.
“It’s been a big advantage,” Redmon said of his team’s depth. “It’s got us through a lot of tough games this year.”
Added Boleman, “when teams get tired, we’re still going at it.”
That was evident during the Red Elephants’ first-round game against Eastside, when sophomore Ke’Odric Sadler hustled down the floor to block a shot when the outcome of the game was already decided.
“I have to come 100 percent ready to play because I never know when I’m gonna get in,” Sadler said.
It’s that type of attitude that makes Gainesville so dangerous. The starting five of Blake Sims, George Manomano, A.J. Johnson, Nick Johnson and Juwon Jeffries never take a play off, and when they head to the bench for a rest, their substitutes play the same way.
“They bring energy for us and they need to make plays for us,” Cottrell said. “They’re supposed to make a difference in the game.”
But that doesn’t mean scoring a ton of points. Redmon is the team’s leading bench scorer at 3.8 points per game, while Boleman is a close second at 3.4 ppg. During the team’s second-round win over Druid Hills, Redmon didn’t score a single point, yet his coach still praised his effort.
“We got a solid performance by Ty,” Cottrell said after the 60-39 win. “It may not show up in the box score, but he did some nice things for us.”
That statement alone says it all. And when the Red Elephants play Westover, a team with just a much depth, those things could send Gainesville to the title game.
“We’re just gonna treat them like any other team and just play our game,” West said.
That means knowing their role and sacrificing for the good of the team.
“They’ve really put the team before themselves,” Cottrell said of his bench players. “They’ve really sold out on chasing a common goal.”
That goal is a state title, and it’s only two wins away.