- Gainesville, FL. Written By: Kyrin Mayfield
With February drawing to a close, district races are heating up. Two FHSAA Class 7A teams met in a district matchup Tuesday night, as the Gainesville Hurricanes took on the Columbia Tigers.
Gainesville came in with a half-game lead in the district, but could clinch with a win. Columbia needed a win and then a win against Vanguard on Saturday for a three-way-tie at the top. Gainesville head coach Kelly Beckham said his team isn’t feeling any added pressure.
“I told them there shouldn’t be any added pressure,” Beckham said. “Let the pressure be on my shoulders. Hopefully we’re going to come out and play.”
These teams met once before this season back in December when Columbia pound the Canes, 69-38.
“I know GHS as well as anybody,” said Columbia head coach Steve Faulkner. “I know what we’re going to expect. I think our guys are ready. I mean, we’ve talked all week that the game in December doesn’t mean anything.”
Faulkner was right as Gainesville jumped out to an early 6-0 lead. However, the Tigers quickly caught up as they drilled back-to-back threes and then took the lead with a baseline jumper from Marcus Peterson. Columbia pulled away with an 8-0 run in the final minutes to go up 21-14. Columbia made five threes in the first quarter, three of them by Kenney Gaines.
The Canes came roaring back in the second quarter, as they managed to tie the game at 26 when J’len Wilson grabbed an offensive board, dribbled the length of the court, zigzagging around two defenders, and made two free throws after he was fouled driving to the basket. Accurate passing led to a buzzer-beater by Gainesville’s Desmond Ridgeway, who caught a dime from Willie Williams and laid it in. Gainesville ended the half on a 13-4 run and led 34-30, with Wilson supplying 14 of the 34.
The third quarter was more of the same as Wilson added two quick scores, and the Canes were up by as much as 10. They found themselves in some foul trouble mid way through the third as Beckham’s squad had the whistle blown on them six times, compared to zero for Columbia. They held on to the lead, 47-42.
Both teams traded buckets as Gainesville had a 57-52 lead with under a minute to go. Multiple successfully drained free throws gave the Canes some breathing room until the Tigers’ Jordan Smith hit a trey to bring them within four with only 13 seconds left. Gainesville was fouled immediately and only made one of the two free throws. Columbia sprinted down to the other end, which led to Bobby Fulton hitting a three with six seconds left. The lead was now two. Another intentional foul followed.
Rod Williams knocked down both free throws and dashed Columbia’s hopes at winning. Gainesville was victorious, 64-60.
Thirteen of the Canes final 17 points came via the charity stripe, whereas Columbia went 12-for-21 on free-throws during the game. Wilson led the Canes with an astonishing 30 points. Ridgeway added a respectable 14. The Tigers had eight players find the bottom of the net and were led by Smith and Darrien Jones, who had 15 and 14 points, and a combined seven made three-pointers.
Gainesville (13-9) puts it’s six game winning streak on the line at Buchholz on Friday. Columbia (12-11) takes on Vanguard on Saturday in a fight for the third seed in the district.