cloudy
Wednesday February 10th, 2016 1:45AM

Boys basketball: Gainesville clamps down on Salem late, wins seventh in a row

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
GAINESVILLE -- Deshaun Watson provided the firepower, but Keyontra Harrison's instincts may have proven the difference for Gainesville on Friday night.

Facing a 68-68 scoreline and a determined Salem, Harrison spoke up during a timeout.

"Tray suggested we press them out of the timeout; he felt we could force a turnover," said Gainesville coach Todd Cottrell, who sided with his senior point guard and watched his team follow the plan to perfection en route to a 74-68 win in Gainesville.

The Red Elephants deflected a Seminoles pass that Watson snagged and dumped to Jikeese Ruff for an easy lay-in and a lead with 38 seconds remaining that the home side would not yield -- Watson made sure of that.

The junior went 6-for-6 from the free throw line inside the final minute, including the game-tying buckets and two more with 15.2 seconds remaining that gave the Red Elephants (15-9, 9-6 Region 8-AAAAA) breathing room at 72-68 and helped clinch their seventh straight win.

The clutch late play gave Watson 13 points in the fourth quarter and was part of a 29-point night for the junior.

"Everybody knows what kind of player he is, no matter what the sport," Cottrell said of Watson, who appears to be finding his basketball rhythm at just the right time after helping lead the Red Elephants to a football state title in December. "He's just a competitor, and he raises his play the tougher the circumstances."

Thanks to the play of Jamaal Garner and Dedrick Turner, circumstances were tight indeed for Gainesville -- which jumped out to a 23-14 first quarter lead only to watch the two Seminoles lead the visitors back into contention.

Garner and Turner took turns pacing Salem, scoring 22 and 20 points, respectively -- including all but two of the Seminoles' 21 in the fourth quarter. The duo combined to give Salem a 54-52 lead minutes into the final period before Garner put up five straight points of his own for a 68-66 advantage with less than two minutes remaining.

Yet the Red Elephants have learned how to win games of all types of late, and Gainesville refused to back down this time, Watson sinking two free throws to knot the contest before the Red Elephants heeded Harrison's suggestion and clamped down on defense to force back-to-back turnovers and seal the victory with one field goal and four free throws.

"That was just a senior showing his leadership and experience," Cottrell said. "I'm so proud of these guys and what they've shown me."

Fellow Gainesville senior Shaquan Cantrell also played a key role, putting up 18 points on the night, including back-to-back lay-ins that kept the Red Elephants within one possession of the lead midway through the fourth quarter.

"Shaquan did a great job attacking the basket when we needed him to, and I also thought Chase England did a great job tonight. He didn't have many points (nine on the night), but he did a lot of big things for us inside and fought throughout," Cottrell said. "And Jikeese overcame some early fouls to play some great defense for us."

Luke Moore, also a senior, finished with 12 points for Gainesville, including eight in the first quarter, as the Red Elephants raced out of the starting blocks, with Moore and Watson each draining two 3-pointers.

"There was a lot of emotion tonight; there always is on senior night," Cottrell said. "I wish we would have kept our poise a little better, but the kids battled hard. Salem's a good team."

The Red Elephants' current win streak certainly puts them under that category as well, and Gainesville still has a shot at winning the No. 1 seed for the upcoming Region 8-AAAAA tournament -- after starting the season 1-6.

"I don't know how much that will matter considering how tight this region is," Cottrell said. "Everybody's so good, you're going to have to play your best to win any game in that tournament."

The Red Elephants will play host to Cedar Shoals in the regular season finale on Saturday, beginning with the girls varsity game at 4 p.m. and the boys game to follow.
© Copyright 2016 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Bartus, Icemen shuts out Gwinnett
Garrett Bartus pitched a 42 save shutout, as the Evansville IceMen topped the Gwinnett Gladiators on a New year
10:23PM ( 2 years ago )
Gator Bowl Preview Capsule
A rematch of last year's Capital One Bowl, which Georgia won 45-31 in Orlando.
8:52PM ( 2 years ago )
Millsap's 34 leads Hawks past Celtics
Paul Millsap had season highs with 34 points and 15 rebounds as the Hawks rallied from an 18-point deficit for a 92-91 win over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday afternoon.
7:44PM ( 2 years ago )
Sports
Big Red Shootout: Buford foils Lady Elephants' upset bid in finale
Buford junior Camille Anderson knows to forget about the past during games.
11:09PM ( 2 years ago )
Boys basketball: Knights rebound with win over Centennial
The Johnson boys bounced back after a loss to Grayson on Friday with a 94-72 win Saturday night over Centennial in the Duluth Jingle Jam.
10:43PM ( 2 years ago )
Girls basketball: Dawson falls in Battle of States finals
Dawson County fell behind early and could not complete the comeback in a 70-65 loss to Hayesville, N.C. in the championship game of The Battle of the States Tournament Saturday night.
10:38PM ( 2 years ago )
High School Sports
(VIDEO) 8-AAAAA tournament: GHS boys advance, Falcons drop heartbreaker in quarterfinals
The ingredients were there Tuesday for Flowery Branch to cook up the first upset of the Region 8-AAAAA boys tournament....
9:07AM ( 7 hours from now )
8-A tournament: Lakeview surges past Athens Academy into semifinals
The Lakeview Academy boys basketball team cruised into the Region 8-A semifinals on Tuesday courtesy a 64-48 defeat of Athens Academy in Athens.
By AccessWDUN Staff
11:57PM ( 1 hour ago )
8-A tournament: Lady Lions move into region semifinals
The Lakeview Academy girls basketball team picked up a victory in the first round of the Region 8-A tournament on Tuesday in Athens.
By AccessWDUN Staff
11:36PM ( 2 hours ago )
(UPDATE) Basketball: 7-AAA, 8-AAAA games postponed due to weather; rescheduled for Wednesday
Both the Region 7-AAA and Region 8-AAAA basketball tournament games scheduled for Tuesday night have been postponed due to impending inclement weather and rescheduled for Wednesday. However, all Region 8-AAAAA contests slated for Gainesville High on Tuesday are still on as scheduled, as are Region 8-A games for Lakeview Academy boys and girls at Athens Academy.
By AccessWDUN Staff
11:20PM ( 2 hours ago )
Lawsuit alleges Tennessee has 'hostile sexual environment'
A lawsuit filed by a group of women alleges that the University of Tennessee has violated Title IX regulations and created a "hostile sexual environment" through a policy of indifference toward assaults by student-athletes.
By The Associated Press
10:49PM ( 2 hours ago )