SUGAR HILL — Unfortunately for Gainesville coach Chuck Graham and the Red Elephants, there are “teachable moments” aplenty after they dropped a gut-wrenching 78-77 decision in overtime to Lanier Tuesday night on the road.
The Longhorns’ Jehloni James tipped in a missed free throw attempt with 3 seconds left for the game-winner when two Gainesville players did not block out on a missed free throw by Jalen Surles that would have tied the game.
That came after an ill-timed foul on James on a wayward inbound pass that Surles most likely would not have been able to corral without going out of bounds. And, that came after Gainesville had missed four free throws and had two crucial turnovers in the overtime period.
The Red Elephants were a dismal 11-of-25 from the line for the game.
“That’s worse than I thought,” Graham said of the missed attempts at the line. “That was a tough one to lose but the things that hurt us -- the turnovers, the free throws -- are all fixable. They’re teachable moments for these kids.
“This was a playoff-type atmosphere with two good teams. We’ll take this and learn from it.”
It was the first-ever loss for Gainesville (12-8, 4-1 Region 8-6A) against the Longhorns (12-6, 4-0 Region 8-6A) in nine all-time meetings. The win also pushed Lanier into sole possession of first place in the region standings.
“That’s a very, very good Lanier team,” Graham said. “They kept their composure at the end and you have to give them credit. I think both teams have a chance to do some things in the playoffs.”
The Red Elephants looked to have pulled themselves out of the fire in the waning moments of regulation when Rafael Rubel buried a long 3-pointer to tie the game at 68 to send it to overtime. They again seemed to snatch victory from defeat in the extra period when Maurice Hector hit a fadeaway jumper with 4 seconds left to give Gainesville a 77-75 lead.
But the final sequence and Jehloni James were their undoing. James was huge down the stretch for the Longhorns pouring in 13 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter and overtime.
It was a back-and-forth affair most of the way. Gainesville jumped out to a quick 9-5 lead only to see the Longhorns erupt for a 13-3 run to pull out to an 18-12 advantage. Lanier extended its lead to 27-19 early in the second quarter but the Red Elephants responded with a 16-3 run to take a 35-30 lead. The Longhorns sent the game to halftime tied at 35 after Sion James scored just before the buzzer.
In the third quarter, Lanier led 47-43 before a 7-0 Gainesville run, capped by a Robert Reisman stick back basket, gave them a 50-47 lead. The Red Elephants took a 52-50 lead into the fourth quarter on a Walt Dixon basket and led 54-50 on a Rubel stick back basket moments into the final period.
But again the Longhorns answered as Jehloni James capped a 7-2 run with a pair of free throws. And Gainesville answered that with an 8-2 spurt for a 64-59 lead, But Gainesville was just 2-of-6 from the line in a 45-second span with under two minutes left that could have put the game out of reach.
Lanier, behind 7 points from Jehloni James, stormed back in the final minute with a 9-1 run for a 68-65 lead with 14 seconds left setting up Rubel’s big shot and Hector’s in overtime. But it wasn’t enough.
“Those two guys hit huge shots and that will give them confidence later that they can hit those kinds of shots,” Graham said. “But we need to fix the little things and we will.”
Rubel paced Gainesville with 19 points before fouling out in the overtime period. Brent Kelly had 17 points, Reisman 12, Datavious Buffington 10, and Hector finished with 8 points, 5 coming in overtime.
Sean Foster led Lanier with 20 points despite being in foul trouble most of the game. Longhorns’ leading scorer Sion James finished with 12 points, just two after halftime before he fouled out in the fourth quarter.
LANIER GIRLS 65,
The Lady Longhorns held Gainesville scoreless over the final 1:52 and hit 5 of 6 free throws in the final 41 seconds to take a tough region win and stay unbeaten in Region 8-6A play.
The Lady Longhorns (16-3, 4-0 Region 8-6A) pushed their win streak to six and are now an impressive 9-1 at home on the season.
Neither team led by more than six points and traded the lead seven times. The Lady Red Elephants (10-8, 2-3 Region 8-6A) opened the third quarter with a 9-2 run to erase a 29-27 halftime deficit but Lanier answered with a 16-7 run to reclaim a 47-43 lead after a steal and layup by Mekela Fuller.
Lanier pushed its lead to 54-49 early in the fourth quarter on a stick back basket by Crystal Bell Ezumah with 7:01 left. But Tia Shelton and Tija Blackwell sparked a 9-4 run with a Shelton 3-pointer and two free throws from Blackwell tying the game at 58 with 3:23 left.
After an Ezumah basket, Blackwell tied the game at 60 with a steal and layup with 1:52 left but the Lady Red Elephants went cold missing their final five shots while the Lady Longhorns won it at the free throw line down the stretch.
Lanier missed its first four shots of the game and added four turnovers in its six possessions but Gainesville could not capitalize missing 6 of its first 8 shots to lead just 3-0 in the first two minutes.
The Lady Longhorns got hot hitting 5 of its next 6 shots to go with a free throw to answer with an 11-2 run for an 11-5 lead. But turnovers continued to be an issue for Lanier as the Lady Red Elephants closed out the first quarter with an 8-3 run to close within 14-13.
Gainesville forced 10 first quarter Lanier turnovers but managed just 4 points off those miscues. Lanier, on the other hand, forced just 6 Gainesville turnovers but turned those into 8 points.
Lady Red Elephants opened the second quarter with a 3-0 to reclaim the lead at 16-14 but Blackwell picked up her second foul and Lanier took advantage responding with an 8-0 run in just over a minute for a 22-16 lead. Blackwell returned less than a minute later and quickly hit a 3-pointer and later dished two assists on a pair of Jada Rucker baskets to pull within 29-27 by halftime.
Blackwell finished with 20 points, 11 rebounds, 6 steals, and 4 assists and Shelton had 19 points to pace Gainesville. The Lady Red Elephants, which lost its second straight game and fell to 2-5 on the road, hit just 5-of-13 free throws for the game.
Lanier was led by Fuller’s 18 points. Ezumah had 13 points and 15 rebounds for the Lady Longhorns, who also outrebounded Gainesville 36-22 for the game. Kalen Surles added 11 points and Lizzie Campbell had 10 for Lanier.