The Bulloch Academy Gators split a pair of games with the visiting Pinewood Patriots Tuesday night at Gator Alley. The girls improved to 17-2 on the season as they knocked off Pinewood 35-28, while the boys comeback big fell just short as they lost 47-45.
Both games saw big leads evaporate in the fourth quarter, and in the boys game, the Gators nearly pulled off a huge comeback. The Patriots led comfortably throughout the game, and led by double digits for most of the second half.
Bulloch Academy senior Michael Corbett gave the Gators their first lead of the game, as he buried a three pointer to make it 43-42 Gators with 1:22 left in the game. The Patriots retook the lead on a pair of free throws by J.M. Headrick, but the Gators answered with a Lynes McKinney layup to grab a 44-43 lead with 48 seconds to go.
The game eventually came down to free throws, though the Gators did have a chance to tie things as time expired. The Gators were abysmal from the line, where they went 7-22 for the game, including missing the front end of a pair of one-and-one opportunities with less than a minute to play.
After another Gator missed free throws with 17 seconds left the Patriots took the ball the length of the court, and Mic Wasson hit an off balance layup with two seconds remaining. With just under two seconds to go Aaron threw an inbounds play the length of the court, just over the outstretched arms of a pair of Patriot defenders, and into the arms of Corbett. Corbett quickly turned and fired, but the shot rolled around the rim and fell to the ground, as the Patriot fans stormed the court in victory.
“We got a good look at the end, but this game came down to missing free throws,” said Bulloch Academy coach Chance Cofield. “Michael played a great game, and made a clutch three to give us the lead. What we can learn from is free throws matter, and you can’t shoot like we did tonight, and win a close game.”
Pinewood was 16-22 from the free throw line, while the Gators were just 7-22. The Gators were able to climb back into the game as they outscored Pinewood 21-13 in the fourth quarter, and hit five three pointers. Bo Spence hit a pair of three’s while Corbett, Aaron and Westin Boyd each had one from behind the arc.
“I am so proud of the way this team battles,” Cofield said. “It’s been a tough year with injuries, and illnesses. Our team could have quit at any point, but they continue to fight back just like they did tonight. We have to find a way to come out and play like we did in the fourth quarter for an entire game.”
Spence led the Gators with 16 points, while Boyd added 14. The Patriots were led by Wasson with 16 points.
The Bulloch Academy vs. Pinewood girls game almost mirrored the boys game. The Gators led by double digits for most of the game, but had to hold off a fourth quarter Pinewood rally, as they went on to win 35-28 to improve to 17-2 on the season.
With the win the top ranked Gators were able to something they hadn’t done in four years, beat the Patriots. The Gators came in knowing they had a strong team, and beat some good teams, but the mental block of losing eight straight to the Patriots as something that concerned head coach Chandler Dennard coming into the contest.
“We don’t do anything easy,” Dennard said. “I’m already old, and they are making me older with games like this. Things got a little tight there late in the game, but we stayed calm and weathered the storm. We made some big plays down the stretch.”
The Patriots played man-to-man defense for first half, and the Gators took advantage of what they felt was a mismatch with senior Regan Ellis.
“We felt like Regan had an advantage with her athleticism in their man defense,” Dennard said. “She was able to take her daughter off the dribble, and had some easy baskets.”
The Gators played great defense, and Ellis scored nine points in the first half to lead Bulloch Academy to a 16-6 halftime lead.
The Gators turned things over to Kacie Ricketts in the second half. Ricketts scored nine of her game high 14 points in the second half. The Patriots made things interesting though as they cut the lead to four with just over two minutes to play in the game.
Amy Mills, and Abi Oates led a Patriot comeback in the fourth quarter. Oates hit a pair of three pointers, while Mills scored six points, including a jump hook that cut the lead to 29-25 with 2:16 to play.
Needing a basket to stop the bleeding the Gators turned to junior Leah Williford. Williford drove to the basket and hit a layup to extend the lead to six. The Patriots then turned the ball over, and Williford was fouled. Williford then made both free throws to extend the lead to eight at 33-25, and they’d go on for the seven point victory.
“Leah made some big plays down the stretch,” Dennard said. “She struggled a bit tonight with turnovers, but she bounced back and kept her head in the game. Our defense was good for the most part, but when it got hectic there in the fourth we got a little lost. The big thing is they pulled it together, and we got a huge home win.”
Ricketts led the Gators with 14 points, Mills added 10 or the Patriots. Up next Bulloch Academy is at Trinity on Friday.
Elsewhere the Statesboro Blue Devils split a pair of games at Wayne County as the boys won 50-36 behind a game high 22 from Zarion Griffin to improve to 17-5 overall and 6-0 in region play. The girl’s lost their first region game of the season as they fell to the Jackets 40-33 despite 22 points from Lacy Robins. Teren Ward led all scorers with 23 points. The Lady Blue Devils are 17-5 overall and 5-1 in region play.
In other action the southeast Bulloch boys lost to Johnson 83-71. Ryan Swanson led the Jackets with 19 points, while Khristian Clark added 18 points. Southeast Bulloch falls to 8-13 overall and 5-8 in region play.