LAWRENCEVILLE — The Gainesville boys first foray into Class 7A ended in heartache on Wednesday night.
The Red Elephants (19-10, Region 6-7A No. 3 seed) lost 63-61 to Archer (15-12, Region 7-7A No. 2 seed) in overtime in the first round of the Class 7A playoffs.
Archer, the No. 4 seed in the Region 7-7A tournament, came into the game riding back-to-back red hot performances in the region tournament, knocking off No. 1 Norcross in the semifinals and lost in overtime to No. 4 Berkmar in the title game.
So, Gainesville knew the Tigers had the ability to make a run.
It wasn't a great first half for either team offensively, however, the Tigers opened the game on a 6-0 run, but Gainesville, after they settled down a bit -- four turnovers in the first six possessions -- to rally back to take the lead with 3:42 off back-to-back shots from Robert Reisman. The senior guard led the Red Elephants with 24 points.
"Archer jumped on us early, but we have some tough-minded kids and because of that we were able to respond," Gainesville coach Chuck Graham said. "Hate to lose a game like that, but so proud of our boys' effort."
Jimmie Jackson finished with 11, Ced Nicely had 9, and Eli Pitts and Dylan Bobga added 8 points.
In the second quarter, the two traded baskets. Gainesville grabbed the lead off a Reisman 3-pointer. Archer tied it up on a Jaylen Magby trey with 4:23 on the clock. Gainesville's Ced Nicely grabbed the lead back 21-19 on a basket with less than four minutes left, but the Tigers, led by Christian Drummer (19 points) and Major Freeman hit shots to put the Tigers in control at the half, 28-25.
The second half was much of the same -- a back and forth battle. But Archer accelerated ahead by eight points with just over four minutes left in the third, 38-20. Gainesville, however, stormed back, Eli Pitts, Nicely, a big 3-pointer from Dylan Bobga and Reisman cut the Tigers' lead, 44-42 at the end of the quarter.
And the fourth quarter was much of the same, except Gainesville, behind Reisman's 10 points, and a huge 3-pointer with 3:02 left lifted the Red Elephants to a 52-49 advantage, with a chance to extend, but Mekhi Carter (14 points) scored the next trip, and Ryen Jones (11 points) laid the ball in on an offensive rebound giving the Tigers a 55-54 lead.
"Rob played great tonight," Graham said. "His energy sparked us and allowed other guys to make plays."
Gainesville, however, marched right back on a Pitts' bucket and a Pitts' block, catch and pass to a wide-open Reisman down the court for the score and a three-point lead, 58-55, with 32 seconds left in regulation. It still wasn't enough, though, as Archer's Drummer hit two of his four free throws in the last 23 seconds to inch within a point, 58-57.
Gainesville had a chance to ice the game at the end of regulation leading by two points but Reisman missed a key free throw on a 1-and-1 attempt. Drummer had the chance to win it in regulation from the foul line but only hit 1-of-2.
In overtime, the Tigers outpaced Gainesville 5-3, but the Red Elephants turned the ball over three times in the four-minute period.