Hurricanes top Columbia, 61-60

Published: Wednesday, January 17, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 17, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

LAKE CITY — Gainesville strengthened its bid for a top seed in next month's District 4-5A playoffs Tuesday with a 61-60 win at Columbia.

Fouled with no time left on the clock, Barnell Warren hit two free throws to win the game and keep the Hurricanes (16-3, 9-1 in district) in a tie with Eastside for the district lead.

Up 14-8 after the opening quarter, the 'Canes stumbled into the half down 28-27 despite out-rebounding the Tigers (15-5, 7-3) 17-6 in the opening two quarters.

"We just finished a series of nine games in 16 days, and we actually got a chance to practice," said Hurricane coach Tony Wise. "That's one of the things we emphasize in practice. The teams in our district hit the boards so hard, that if you don't rebound the ball, you're going to lose the game."

Two-third quarter runs, 10-3 and 10-2, propelled Gainesville to a 24 point third quarter and a 51-41 lead heading into the final period. Both runs were led by Gainesville's Chad July, who led all players with 20 points and seven rebounds.

A 15-4 Tiger run, led by Kenny Williams and Tavaris Reynolds, who both scored 15 points for the game, reclaimed the lead for Columbia with 2:36 to play. It was the first of four lead changes that led to the deciding play of the game.

Down 60-59 with 14.3 seconds to play, the Hurricanes missed two opportunities to sink a game winning basket. Recovering the ball after a blocked shot, Warren missed a desperation over-the-shoulder shot as the buzzer sounded, sending the Columbia faithful onto the floor in celebration. Lost in the chaos was a referee blowing his whistle to call a foul on Columbia's Reynolds.

After the crowd was brought under control, Warren went to the line for three shots. Needing two to win with no time left on the clock, he missed the first and dropped in the final two to seal the win. GHS fans in attendance rushed the court, even asking Warren to autograph a souvenir Columbia basketball handed out at halftime by the Tiger cheerleaders.

"I had been off all night," said Warren, who recorded his first points of the contest with the game-winning free throws. "Coach told me to do what I do in practice.

"The first one, I was cold and had to get that out of my system. I knew I was going to make two. Three, I really didn't care, two was all we needed."

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