Bulloch Academy opened its regular-season Tuesday night with 20-point wins over David Emanuel Academy.
The Gator girls, who have been undefeated in two pre-season tournaments, whipped the Lady Eagles 52-30. Junior point guard Ashley Burke paced squad with 18 points while junior post Pate Lomax added 10.
In the finale, the Gator guys used impressive teamwork to take a 55-24 victory.
“With this bunch, it’s going to be someone different every night,” said BA head coach Chandler Dennard. “We’ve got great team chemistry and you can see it on the court. We did a good job sharing the ball and making that extra pass.”
Senior Ja’Darius Smith led with 15 points while junior Will Marsh added eight and seniors Matt Sheppard and Ivan Chen had seven each.
“I really think that we have a chance to be pretty good,” said Dennard. “We’ve got to continue to get better defensively.”
The Gators (1-0) looked like it was their first game of the season early as they and the Eagles (1-1) batted the ball back and forth for the better part of the opening quarter. Missed shots, bad passes and numerous fouls highlighted the quarter.
But Bulloch came together late as the Gators took a 13-0 lead at the horn when Smith drained one of this three treys. He hit his other two early in the third to help give BA a 19-4 lead.
Marsh and sophomore Hunter Perry, as well as junior Lee Waters, sparked an aggressive but solid defense. Sheppard, his twin Bill, juniors Will Rushing and Smith Reeves and sophomore Lanier Olliff led the offensive attack.
Dennard rotated his players frequently, looking for that right combination and evaluating each player’s strengths and weaknesses. Once the kinks had been worked out, he saw a quick unit that used great vision to find the open man and get him the ball for the score. Bulloch took a 27-9 halftime lead.
The Gators outscored DEA 14-6 in the third quarter for a 41-15 lead by the buzzer. The accurate passing continued as if it was more important to get the assist than to score the basket.
Bulloch went up by as many as 30 in the fourth and Dennard emptied his bench. The only real flaw in the Gators’ performance was hitting just 3-of-12 from the free-throw line.
In the opener, the Lady Gators (6-0) tried to work their normal inside game against the Lady Eagles. But DEA’s Jessica Brett and Kristan Rigdon played tough inside and caused problems for BA’s Pate Lomax and Chelsea Oglesby.
Early on, it looked as if the Gator girls were still on Thanksgiving break as they missed easy missed shots and had mental mistakes. Brett helped knot the score at 6-6 midway through the quarter.
But Lomax kept pushing hard inside and went to the line often in the first eight minutes, hitting half of her shots from the charity stripe. Burke nailed a three-point shot at the buzzer for a 12-6 lead.
Senior Danielle Atkinson and Burke hit back-to-back treys early in the second for a 20-10 lead. But Rigdon kept the Lady Eagles in the game. Kirsten Lamm drilled a three to pull the Stillmore girls to within five. Rigdon had 12 points on the night and Lamm added 10.
But the Lady Gator tight man press led to turnovers and easy baskets. Good rebounding on both ends of the court and lock-down defense led to an 11-5 run. Bulloch pulled away and took a 31-15 lead at intermission. Oglesby, senior Brooke Gilbert and freshman Mikay Sands contributed six each on the night.
In the third, Burke put on a ball-handling exhibition on offense and went wild on defense to lead BA on an 18-5 run and a 49-20 lead. Webb emptied his bench in the final quarter to give some younger players valuable time on the court.
In the afternoon middle-school games, Trevor Mason netted 14 points to lead the Gators to a 39-33 lead. Wes Overstreet led the Eagles with 11. In the girls’ game, Isabella Gutierrez scored 10 to lead the Lady Gators to a 26-19 win. Carli Patterson led DEA with 10.