The Gainesville boys basketball team had a chance to lock up a home playoff game Tuesday evening in a Region 6-7A semifinal bout against Denmark. But long stretches of offensive struggle slowed the Red Elephants, who fell 40-37 on their home court to the Danes.
Gainesville (18-8) scored just 3 total points in the entire second quarter, and produced only 4 points over the final six minutes of the fourth, but still kept the game close with a couple timely burst and solid defense throughout the contest.
“I thought it was a great game,” Gainesville coach Chuck Graham said. “You’ve got two teams that are playing for a spot in the region championship game. They just happened to make a couple more plays.”
Eli Pitts had nine points and four steals to lead the way for the Red Elephants, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the team’s scoring woes.
Gainesville actually started out hot from behind the arc with a pair of early 3s from Dylan Bobga in the first half of the opening quarter that helped it open up a four-point lead over the Danes, eight minutes into the game.
But things went off the rails offensively in the second frame.
Pitts made his first bucket of the night — an and-1 opportunity on a blow-by layup that he turned into 3 points — halfway through the period, but that was all the scoring the Red Elephants would do for the remainder of the quarter. Denmark scored 10 straight to close out the half and take a five-point lead into the break.
Gainesville briefly showed some life coming out of the locker room, getting another 3-point play from Pitts and a pair of corner 3s from Robert Reisman and Charlie Reisman to reclaim the lead, but went cold again from there. The Danes put together a 5-0 run to get back in front going into the fourth and would not relinquish the lead for the rest of the game.
Gainesville cut the deficit to just 1 point with a couple of Ced Nicely free throws that came with about four minutes left to play, but managed just one more basket the rest of the contest.
The Red Elephants were within 3 points with 10 seconds remaining and had one last opportunity to tie things up and send it to overtime, but Denmark stole the inbound to close things out.
Despite missing out on a home playoff game in the Class 7A tournament, Gainesville will still be either a 3 or 4 seed to the postseason.
Up next, Gainesville faces Lambert in the third-place game on Thursday at South Forsyth High.
Graham said that while the loss stings right now, he’s expecting his team to learn and grow from it.
“Like I say all the time, every loss we’ll take something from it,” he said. “We’ll learn from it. We’ll get better.”