WINDER — After a lackluster 19 minutes the Gainesville boys needed just five to show what they can do when inspired.
The Red Elephants trailed Winder-Barrow 34-31 with 5:12 left in the third quarter but sparked by a pair Rafael Rubel steals they forced 10 third quarter turnovers as part of a 19-1 run that eventually led to a 72-54 victory Friday night at the Winder gym.
The Gainesville girls, however, fell to the Lady Bulldoggs 72-58 in the opening game.
While Gainesville boys coach Chuck Graham said he was pleased with the outcome he also is looking for more consistency.
“Not much effort in the first half,” he said of a game where the teams were deadlocked at 29 at intermission. “We talked at halftime and the guys came out a little more focused and with a little more effort. We still have much to improve on as a team. But it was good to see a young team, and we’re a young team still, be able to come out and focus like that when they need too. But playing a full four quarters is something we have to get to at some point.”
The defensive intensity of guards Rubel, Brent Kelly, Julio Santana, and Datavian Buffington racked up six steals combined in the third quarter while turning the deficit into a 50-35 lead over a four minute stretch that was fittingly capped by a Santana steal and layup in waning seconds of the period.
For Gainesville (12-7, 4-0 Region 8-6A) it was the eighth straight win and sets up a showdown on Tuesday in Sugar Hill against Lanier (11-6, 3-0) for first place in the region.
“It should be a tough game for both teams. We will need to be a little more consistent right from the start in that one,” Graham said.
Gainesville jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead and led 20-12 after the first quarter. But the Red Elephants managed six points after the first 7:55 of the second quarter as the Bulldoggs (6-12, 1-3) used a 17-6 burst, capped by a Brandon Bannis 3-pointer, to take a 29-26 lead. Rubel, however, buried a long trey just before the half to tie the game.
Winder-Barrow was a blistering 6-of-9 from 3-point in the first half while Gainesville was just 2-of-10. The Bulldoggs went cold from the field in the third quarter going a dismal 3-for-10 overall with 10 turnovers.
After the third quarter explosion, Winder-Barrow never got closer than 11 and the Red Elephants led by as many as 23, 70-47, late in the game.
Rubel finished with 18 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 steals to lead Gainesville. Walt Dion poured in 11 points and added 7 rebounds off the bench. Kelly had 10 points, Santana 9 points, and Buffington and Robert Reisman each had 8 points for the Red Elephants.
Bannis and Tyreek Perkins each had 12 points and Tie’van English had 11 points for the Bulldoggs.
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Winder-Barrow trailed just once and Chelia Watson was just too much for the Lady Red Elephants defense as the Lady Bulldoggs (10-6, 3-1 Region 8-6A) won their third consecutive region contest.
The Gainesville girls (10-7, 2-2) fell behind 8-0 in the opening minutes but rallied behind 11 points from Tija Blackwell to claim its only lead of the game at 13-12. But Winder-Barrow closed out the first quarter with a 7-0 run and never trailed again.
The game was still up for grabs after a Blackwell basket pulled Gainesville within 28-20 but a Watson 3-pointer sparked a 16-4 run to close out the first half for a 44-24 advantage.
Winder-Barrow hammered the Lady Red Elephants on the boards outrebounding them 17-5 in the first half. Gainesville had chances forcing 12 Lady Bulldoggs turnovers, including 10 steals, but managed to turn those into just two points in the first half.
Gainesville coach Alan Griffin said slow starts have been a concern of late.
“That’s three games in a row where we started slow and we’re also struggling to rebound the ball,” he said. “We need to find a way to get going right from the beginning. But I’m very proud of where we are as a team. However, I also know they can be better.”
Gainesville finally found a groove in the third quarter using a 19-4 run to pull within 50-43 in the early moments of the fourth quarter. But the Lady Red Elephants could not get closer as Watson took control late dishing out four assists to go 8 of her 29 points in the final three minutes.
Blackwell also poured in 29 points and added 5 steals and 3 rebounds. Tia Shelton finished with 16 points for Gainesville.