The Gainesville Leopards trailed throughout much of the game. They were behind 31-24 at halftime and 44-38 after the third quarter, but they finally put together their best quarter of the game in the final frame.
Gainesville outscored Anna 17-12 in the fourth and they had two chances to score the go-ahead basket in the final 30 seconds of the game.
The Leopards went to their horse in sophomore Tre Lawson, who led the team in scoring with 17 points, but his jump shot as the final buzzer sounded clanged off the iron to send them to their fifth district loss of the season.
Gainesville hasn’t lost any district game by more than 18 points and it was the second game that was decided by five or less points.
Gainesville coach Jeff Wolf said the loss hurt, but it isn’t going to deter the team’s spirit.
“I mean the kids really wanted to win,” Wolf said. “They’re playing together and we had our chances. The shots just didn’t drop. All the losses hurt and every game in district, we have had opportunities to compete and win a game. I’m not just saying that because I’m the coach. We’ve got to keep on fighting.”
Senior Draylon Franklin also had 16 points, but he was hampered with foul trouble. No other player scored in double digits, but junior Noah Ridge did score seven points and was a bright spot on the night.
“He got hurt in the middle December with an ankle injury and he was out a good month,” Wolf said. “He’s been back for about five or six games and just now getting back to full speed. He has a lot of ability. He’s long, lanky and can hit three-pointers.”
Anna did some of their offensive damage with their outside shooting game and Wolf said he would rather allow 3-pointers instead of easy shots in the paint.
Wolf said he was pleased with the team’s overall defense.
“I felt like in the half court was our best defense against them,” Wolf said. “And we had we actually played pretty good defense. We held them to 13 and 12 points in the third and fourth quarters.”
The Leopards will head out on the road for the first of four district road games to close the season. They’ll face Aubrey on Tuesday, Jan. 29.
Aubrey downed Gainesville 67-62 on Jan. 11.
“Aubrey has a point guard that penetrates pretty well and then they’ve got the coach’s son,” Wolf said. “We can play with them. I have no doubt my mind that we can play with them, but we’re just gonna have to continue to play together and continue to grow as a family.”
Patrick Hayslip can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @PatrickHayslip