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'It was Bailey's night': Gainesville's Minor crucial to Red Elephants' 59-55 win over Apalachee
Gainesville (11-3, 9-0 in 8-AAAAA) pushed all the way by Apalachee's Kamar Baldwin (29 points)
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Gainesville's Harry Oliver (3) guards Apalachee's Omer Ahmed (24) as he dribbles downcourt during Friday's game at Gainesville High School. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Bailey Minor needed to take a few more minutes stepping out of the locker room Friday night than he usually would.

If he performs for Gainesville again like he did in last night’s 59-55 win over Apalachee, the coaching staff will surely have an ice tub ready for him every game day.

The sophomore scored a hard-fought team-high 19 points to lead the Red Elephants (11-3, 9-0 in Region 8-AAAAA) to their fifth straight victory, maintaining Gainesville’s first-place region standing.

“It felt good,” said Minor, who sank a backup floater with just over a minute to play that was enough to seal a victory.

“My teammates were finding me on open looks, which really helped. It was a team effort that we stayed in this and pulled out the result.”

Senior Kamar Baldwin, a Butler University signee, led all scorers with 29 points, but the Wildcats (13-4, 6-3) were unable to score in the final minute to knock off the No. 3 Red Elephants.

Baldwin scored nine of his team’s 15 points in the fourth quarter, but fouled out with less than 45 seconds to play. The result breaks a seven-game Wildcats win streak dating back to Dec. 18.

“It was all fight,” said Apalachee coach Kevin Morris. “They’re not going to give up, ever. This is a good team we played, and it seems like every time we play Gainesville, it comes down to the wire. I’m proud of our guys.”

Gainesville will next play three more games in the next four days, including a home game at 2:30 p.m. today against South Gwinnett, before travelling to play defending Class AAAAAA champion Wheeler in Marietta at 3 p.m. Monday. The Red Elephants then finish their crowded stretch in a home region game against Winder-Barrow.

“We ground out a win tonight,” said Gainesville coach Benjie Wood. “All of these region games, we’re going to be grinding them out, because everyone’s tough to play.”

Baldwin (5 of 7 from the FT line) knotted the score with two foul shots at 55-55 with 1:20 left to play, but Wood drew up a play to go to Minor, who showed grit to muscle his way into a hook-shot. He then sank two free throws two possessions later that ultimately put the result out of reach as the Wildcats failed to put together a decent shot with Baldwin on the bench.

“That doesn’t surprise us,” said Wood of his sophomore. “It was Bailey’s night tonight. As good of a ball player as he is, he’s a better man. ... It was a matchup we liked, and he had a real deep post position. That’s his go-to.”

Georgia State signee D’Marcus Simonds tallied 14 points for Gainesville, KJ Buffen had 12 and Messiah Dorsey had a strong game on the boards, totalling six points.

Baldwin and Ricky Wonzon (11 points) combined for six of Apalachee’s seven 3-pointers, while Jabari Hill and Derek Miller each had seven points for the Wildcats.

Baldwin’s trey on the left wing gave Apalachee its first lead of the game deep into the second quarter, 24-23, but layups from Minor and Dorsey allowed Gainesville to enter halftime up 34-30.

The Butler signee fought hard to knot the game up late in the fourth quarter, but Minor stepped up when his team needed him most.

“I took a lot of shots at school today, my body felt good,” said Minor. “My teammates just kept finding me in open looks.”

GAINESVILLE GIRLS 52, APALACHEE 26: Tija Blackwell and Taylor Hawks combined for 23 points to help Gainesville maintain its unbeaten streak in Region 8-AAAAA play.

The Red Elephants (13-3, 9-0 in region) put together an 18-0 run to open the first quarter and never looked back in a one-sided rout of the Wildcats (3-13, 0-8).

Gainesville has won 12 of its last 13 games going back to Nov. 28, including a six-game winning streak.

The Lady Red Elephants, who are in first place in the region, are 6-0 at home this season.

Shikiya Brown added eight points for Gainesville, while Kayla Kelly notched seven.

Gainesville next hosts Winder-Barrow on Tuesday before traveling to Lanier (Jan. 22) and East Hall (Jan. 23) next week.

Meanwhile, Apalachee next hosts Johnson on Saturday. The Lady Wildcats have lost eight of their last nine games, including six straight.

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