GHS sweeps Eastside

Gainesville’s Greg Gantt, left, and Eastside’s Dennis Mavin scramble for the ball during the first half at Santa Fe College Friday.

Erica Brough/Staff photographer
Published: Friday, January 30, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 31, 2009 at 12:49 a.m.

There was a lot of talk this past week among players on the Gainesville High School basketball team about something this group couldn’t claim.

“We had never swept Eastside,” senior guard Greg Gantt said.

Now, they have.

In front of a near-packed gym at Santa Fe College on Friday night, GHS opened up a 12-point lead in the first quarter and held off the Rams the rest of the way to take a 60-52 victory. The win not only gave the fourth-ranked Hurricanes (19-3) the much-desired regular season sweep of their archrivals (they won the first meeting 48-42 on Jan. 9), it also earned them the top seed (with an 11-0 mark) in the District 4-5A tournament at Columbia High School in a week-and-a-half.

GHS coach Kelly Beckham, whose longtime assistant Phillip Knight got his 500th win in the role Friday night, said jumping out to a 21-9 lead to open the game was paramount to GHS’s success.

“It was huge,” Beckham said. “We were able to hit some big shots and got a nice rhythm going early.”

The Rams (18-5, 10-2) scrapped back into it in the second quarter, trimming the deficit to 21-17. However, Anthony Nwadigo hit a 5-foot bank shot at the 3:26 mark (GHS’s first points of the period) and Matt Huber followed up with a 3-pointer and Eastside never got closer than seven the rest of the night.

“There was a lot of catching up to do,” said EHS junior guard Dennis Mavin, who led his team with 18 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter. “We came out slow and they came out fast. We couldn’t get over that.

“There were times we’d get to be feeling pretty confident after they’d get a turnover or something, but then we’d miss some free throws.”

Through three quarters, the Rams were just 2-of-9 from the foul line and finished 9-of-18 for the game.

Eastside coach Pop Williams said he didn’t get the production he hoped for out of his seniors, and the Rams were victimized by foul trouble that saw Epharim Bryant (five points) and Harold Hoskins (nine points, eight rebounds, three steals) foul out in the fourth quarter.

However, GHS had foul issues of its own, as Gabe Rutledge (two points, six rebounds) and Gantt (21 points, five rebounds on his father’s birthday) both had to watch from the bench for minutes at a time. And Williams was quick to praise the Hurricanes.

“They really played great,” Williams said. “I don’t think we came out ready to play and GHS came out real hard. Their seniors really stepped up, and as a team they rebounded really well, much better than we did.”

Leading the way on the boards for the Hurricanes was 6-foot-6 junior T.J. Hall, who came off the bench to score 11 points and grab nine rebounds. He is a unique weapon for GHS, as not only is he proficient in the post, he has 3-point range and spent some of the night as the point man on the press.

But despite their work on the boards (four Hurricanes had at least five rebounds) and their early scoring spurt, Nwadigo said their is no mistaking why GHS, winners of 10 straight, is playing so well right now.

“Defense,” said Nwadigo, who also credited his team’s unselfishness. “We were really able to lock them up in the first quarter and it carried over. That’s what we want to do every game.”

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