The Gainesville boys basketball team nearly took down No. 4 Lanier Tuesday night in Gainesville, but a brief scoring drought through the middle of the third quarter put the Red Elephants into a hole they could not escape as the visiting Longhorns would go on to claim a 63-59 win. The defeat snaps what had been a seven-game winning streak for Gainesville, but Red Elephants coach Chuck Graham said his team had plenty of positives to take away from the loss.
“We grew up tonight,” Graham said. “Of course you want to win the ball game. ... But basketball is one of those sports that you build upon. So we can take this and learn from it and build on it. Like I told the guys, they’re keeping score. You want to win the ball game. But you’ve got to understand the bigger picture, too.”
Robert Reisman paced Gainesville in scoring with 23 points, pouring in 9 in the third quarter to keep things competitive even when Lanier was really starting to hit its stride, but the Red Elephants didn’t have quite enough left in the tank late to finish off the upset.
The two teams played roughly even basketball throughout a first half that featured five lead changes as players on both sides took turns getting hot. Early 3s from Andrew McConnell and Ryan Johnson put the Longhorns up early, but a couple of tough layups in the post for Gainesville’s Ced Nicely kept the game close. A Red Elephants jumper from Eli Pitts with less than 10 seconds to go in the opening frame put Gainesville on top 16-15 eight minutes in.
But neither Johnson nor McConnell were done knocking down shots from long range, as both hit on treys in the second quarter to help Lanier take a 6-point lead at halftime. The Longhorns hit on five 3s in the first half compared to zero for Gainesville, a disparity that Graham said was one of the main deciding factors in the game.
“The 3-pointers I felt were the difference,” he said. “They shot the ball way better than I expected.”
The Red Elephants started the third quarter off with a quick 6-0 burst that tied things up, but went ice cold for the rest of the frame. McConnell hit on three straight 3s for Lanier during a five-minute scoreless drought for Gainesville that put the Red Elephants into their first double-digit deficit of the night.
Gainesville didn’t completely fold from there, as Reisman scored 7 points in the final two minutes of the third quarter and then completed a traditional 3-point play early in the fourth to cut the Longhorn advantage to just 7, but the host team didn’t have quite enough firepower left to battle all the way back.
Though the Red Elephants couldn’t quite finish off the comeback, Graham said the way the team battled was a positive sign, particularly considering how much the team has grown since its 0-10 start to the year.
“If it was December, we would have lost that game by 20,” he said. “But because of the character and going through that tough stretch in the beginning, it’s actually caused us to grow up a little bit. We faced that type of adversity. Now we know what to do.”
LANIER GIRLS 51, GAINESVILLE 23: Lauren Teasley scored 10 points to pace the Lady Red Elephants in scoring, but a quick start from Lanier forced Gainesville to play from behind throughout the contest.
The Lady Longhorns put in the first 9 points of the game, outscoring the Lady Red Elephants 19-3 over the opening eight minutes to take full control. Gainesville played close to Lanier in the second quarter, but another 9-0 run from the Lady Longhorns to start the third put the visiting team on top by 30 three quarters of the way through the game.