GAINESVILLE — After seeing Vernon cut a 23-point third-quarter deficit down to eight early in the fourth quarter, the Gainesville Leopards closed the game with a flourish, outscoring the Lions 24-10 to close out the game en route to an 80-58 win at the GHS gym Friday.
The game marked the home opener for the Leopards (3-2), who had played their first four games on the road after getting a late start to the season due to the football playoffs.
Gainesville came out firing early, racing to a 14-4 lead with buckets from Jonathan Mendez, David Moore, Demetrius Franklin and Denzel Johnson. A late 9-0 run to end the quarter included five points by Moore, a 3-pointer from Franklin and a layup after a steal from Mendez to put Gainesville up 26-8 at the end of the first period.
The GHS lead continued to grow in the second quarter. Johnson scored the first five points of the period for Gainesville, while Moore added a long-range bomb to make it 34-12 with 4:11 remaining. After four-straight points by Vernon, the Leopards answered with a 3-pointer and later a free throw by Jacob Royal to make it 38-16 with 2:41 left in the half.
Vernon then went on an 8-0 run before the Leopards got buckets from Landon Bond and Johnson in the final 47 seconds to take a 42-24 lead into halftime.
The lead grew to 23 (47-24) early in the third quarter after a 3-pointer from Moore and a layup from Mendez, but that’s when Vernon started to chip away.
The Lions (3-6) outscored the Leopards 11-2 over the next three minutes to pull within 49-35. They added a 10-2 run early in the fourth quarter to pull within 56-48 which started to make the home crowd a little nervous.
But the Leopards pulled it together, outscoring Vernon 24-10 from that point to seal the win.
Johnson finished with 25 points to lead Gainesville, while David Moore added 15, Demetrius Franklin scored 13, Jonathan Mendez had 12, Jacob Royal added 6, Landon Bond scored 4, De’Quan Wilford added 3 and Kisean Jackson had 2.
For Vernon, Danny Valverde led the way with 15 points, while Jacobi White added 14.