Gainesville struggles to district final

Gainesville's Janiah McKay scrambles for a rebound past all five Ocala Vanguard defenders during the District 5-6A semifinal on Thursday.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 11:52 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 11:52 p.m.

Usually when a team wins by 17 points, there isn't a lot to complain or worry about.

But when you are the No. 2 team in the state and had beaten your opponent twice by an average of 40 points, such a result just doesn't sit well. Especially with the postseason looming.

Gainesville's girls basketball team took care of business Thursday night at The Purple Palace, downing Ocala Vanguard 58-41 to advance to Saturday's District 5-6A final and clinch its fourth straight state playoff berth. It's how they struggled to do it that bothered Hurricane coach David Gordon.

“We pressed ourselves,” said Gordon, whose team improved to 23-1 and will face Leesburg in Saturday's district final at 7 p.m. “We didn't play our game, we played their game tonight. That is what got us into an early stress-level situation. We didn't do our thing, which is to push the ball all over the floor. I hope that is the worst game we are going to play the rest of the year.”

The 'Canes, who were playing their third game without leading scorer De'ja McPhee (ankle injury), struggled mightily shooting the basketball, and Kayla Lovett's 3-pointer with four seconds left in the first period was their only trey of the night. That put GHS up 14-7 and it led by nine, 27-18, at the half.

Gainesville failed to convert on many fast breaks and had stretches of missed layups after missed layups.

“Lack of focus, lack of concentration,” Gordon said. “We have stressed that to them in practice. That is what we've got to work on before Saturday night.”

The 'Canes stretched their lead to 15 (42-27) heading into the fourth to put the game away. Junior Asya Smith had a team-high 18 points for GHS and seniors Lashawnda James and Lovett had 11 each.

Leesburg (19-6) advanced to the district final with a 63-42 win over South Lake.

Gordon said McPhee, who hurt her ankle at Eastside on Jan. 17, is progressing fine in her rehabilitation and is anticipating her return on the court by the regional final.

“Her progress is moving right along,” he said. “We are not going to push anything than what we need to do. I would hate for her to reinjure it when we really need her. Tonight we needed her.

“Hopefully, this was one of those shaky moments that we needed to get under our belts. We have two more games, that's guaranteed. And we are going to take advantage of those.”

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