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Gators split in home opener
Gators split in basketball home opener
Bulloch Academy junior guard Leah Williford hits a long jump shot for the Gators in their home opener against Coastal Home School. Williford finished with eight points in the game. - photo by JOSH AUBREY/staff

The Bulloch Academy Gators got the 2019-20 season underway at home Tuesday night as they split a doubleheader with Coastal Home School out of Savannah. The Lady Gators won 49-39, and the boys lost 58-32.

The Lady Gators continue to try and adjust to the style of basketball first year head coach Chandler Dennard is bringing to them. The Gators didn’t shoot nearly as many three pointers as they did last season, and were a little more aggressive on the defensive side of the ball.

Despite pretty good ball movement, and pressure defense, the Gators missed quite a few layups, and free throws and dug themselves an early hole. Bulloch Academy came out a different team in the second half as the layups and free throws started to fall, and they pulled away.

“We just played hard, and playing hard kept us in the game,” Dennard said. “We didn’t shoot the ball very well in the first half, but the fact that we played hard, and husted on defense kept things close. In the second half our shots started falling - from the field and the free throw line - and we were able to pull away.”

In the first half the Hurricanes jumped out to a 12-8 lead connecting on a few long range three pointers. The Gators came back to tie the game at 12-12 on a Leah Williford layup, but the Hurricanes came back to take a 17-12 lead.

The Gators continued to get close as Kacie Ricketts layup made it a two point game with just over a minute to go in the half. The two teams then traded baskets and the Gators trailed 23-21 at the half.

In the second half the Gators opened up on an 8-0 run, and never relinquished the lead the rest of the way. A pair of layups by Regan Ellis, a couple Sophie Strickland free throws, and a layup by Allie Beth Presley gave the Gators a six point lead. The Gators were able to press after their made baskets, and the Hurricanes had trouble with the Gators pressure all night.

Coastal was able to get within five points a couple times in the second half, but every time they’d get close the Gators had the answer, leading by as many as 15 points before finally winning by 10.

“We our playing some young kids, and they are all still getting used to what I want from them,” Dennard said. “I feel our team will continue to grow, and I like the effort they are giving out there.”

The Gators were led by Regan Ellis with a game high 15 points. Kacie Ricketts had 10 points and Leah Williford chipped in with eight. The Hurricanes were led by Shannah Stewart with 14 points.

The Bulloch Academy boys have dropped two games to open the season, and head coach Chase Cofield will be glad to have his football players back in the lineup later this week, as they lost Tuesday 58-32.

Without a reliable shooter, the Gators were still able to hang around with the Hurricanes for most of the first half. A Bo Spence three pointer actually gave the Gators a 6-4 lead mid way through the first quarter. At the end of the first quarter the Hurricanes finally took the lead at 8-7, and would never trail the rest of the way.

Coastal went on to extend their lead on the strength of 11 points from John McMinn. The Gators hung tough but were outscored 19-8 in the second quarter, and would trail 24-15 at the half.

In the second half the Gators ran out of steam. Coastal outscored them 17-10 in the third, and then put things away beating the Gators 17-9 in the fourth for a 26 point victory.

“We played hard at times,” Cofield said. “This has been a good experience for my ninth and tenth graders to play games against juniors and seniors. I think it will help them when they start playing J.V. games, but we will be happy to get the football players back tomorrow.”

The Gators were led by Bryce Cifton with nine points, and Bo Spence with seven points. Coastal’s leading scorer was John McMinn with 23.

Up next the Gators will be at full strength as they host Robert Tooms on December 3rd. The Lady Gators travel for a girls only matchup with New Hampstead on Thursday at 5:00.