The fourth- and fifth-grade Gators and Yellow Jackets met on the court at Langston Hughes Elementary on Nov. 29 in their first game of the Hoopster regular season. The two teams kept it close early, but in the second half the Gators pulled away to defeat the Yellow Jackets 33-14.
Coming off a semifinal appearance in the preseason tournament, the Gators were poised to get back on the court. Gators coach Kevin Stuever said weather had cancelled practice last week, and with the holiday break the boys were eager to get the season under way.
"The team did a good job despite being out of practice," Stuever said. "You never know how the first couple of games will go, but the preseason games did help us tonight."
Both teams came out ready to play, and the rust showed in the opening minutes of the game. The teams committed silly mistakes as the Gators took a travel call and turned the ball over and the Yellow Jackets had a turnover and a three-second violation within the same time span.
The fast pace of the first quarter led to missed shots on both sides of the court. At the end of the first quarter, the score was 6-4 in favor of the Gators.
Once the boys started to settle into the game it was the Gators who found themselves putting it all together to put points on the board by using solid defense to shut down the Yellow Jackets.
Gator Nick Andrews converted on a couple of fast breaks to extend the Gator lead by 12 points. At halftime, the Gators led 16-4.
In the third quarter, the Gators picked right back up where they were in the first half and the Yellow Jackets struggled to find an offensive rhythm. Nothing seemed to be falling for the Jackets.
Yellow Jacket Reese Randall put up a two-point shot that found its way to the bottom of the net to put theYellow Jackets at six points.
Milee Kern extended the Gators' lead to 16. The Gators added another basket before the end of the third quarter to make the score 24-6.
In the fourth, the Yellow Jackets came out to make shots, and make shots they did, matching the Gators basket for basket.
Randall led off the quarter with a basket. Re'Shawn Johnson followed with a steal, then drove the length of the court for the lay up. Johnson's teammates, John Fellers and Tye Hughes, helped him out by adding baskets of their own. That was the extent of the Yellow Jacket comeback.
Gator CJ Stuever made free throws down the stretch, and Cody Stanclift added the final two points to extend the Gator lead and record the 33-14 victory over the Yellow Jackets.
After the win, coach Stuever attributed the offensive explosion to great defense.
"We put a focus on defense in practice, and tonight great defense helped spark our offensive output," Stuever said. "I really think our guys shared the ball to set up easy shots."
Despite not practicing the week before the game, the Gators still showed they weren't on their holiday break.