Forward Josh Graham focuses in on the opponent as he holds possession of the ball. Photo by: Faith Buckley

Gainesville’s Senior Night Ends in Close Loss

The Hurricanes missed victory by a two-point margin

The final game of Gainesville’s regular season came down to the wire with a heartbreaking defeat at home 52-50 to Eastside on Friday. It’s their eleventh loss in twenty games this season.

The night didn’t end in Canes’ favor, but the game was worth the watch.

Familiar energy

The matchup against the Rams was nothing less than vivacious in Gainesville on Friday. The energy began outside the gymnasium doors as fans took up yards of space down the pathway in line for the game.

Anticipation was growing; little kids ran around holding cutouts of their favorite seniors, high school students huddled into cliques and parents discussed the rampant manner of the forming crowd.

Guests were eager to get inside the purple palace to watch the pregame senior ceremony. The Hurricanes said goodbye to guard Justus Wilburn, forward Josh Graham and center Cam Jones.

The bitter-sweet moment translated to pure adrenaline on the court throughout the game.

The crowd’s charisma did not disappoint. Bleachers were rumbling as the familiar squeak of basketball shoes filled fans’ ears. Players on the sideline yelled “Defense!” immediately after Eastside took ball possession. It mirrored a typical Gainesville game prior to the pandemic. 

The Hurricanes had a tall task ahead of them with facing the No. 25 ranked Eastside. It was game on.

Wilburn’s impact

The star of Gainesville’s night Wilburn made a tumultuous scene on the court.

Opening the game with a one-handed layup, Wilburn scored the first two points effortlessly. He kept the game alive with his defensive skill, too, attacking the defender no matter the player.

The senior point guard had the hot hand for the canes.

Wilburn absorbed the pressure and cut through the Ram’s strong defense. He took contact and finished the tough shot with his left hand. Wilburn went to drive, stop, and pulled a floater over an eastside center. 

The grind didn’t stop; Gainesville had their offensive assassin throughout the game’s entirety. 

The Hurricanes were down by five with a minute left in the fourth and Wilburn didn’t disappoint. They ran a play to get a good midrange shot up, the shot missed, they got the rebound passed the ball to Justus and he shot a tough corner three, and the net went swish. 

Wilburn racked up 22 points by the final buzzer. “I was in the zone tonight,” Wilburn said. “It started with the first play of the game, Coach showed me a lot of film and I used it to my advantage.”

Too close 

The close (W) loss is a recurring theme with the ‘Canes. The team lost by five points or less in seven of their 11 losses this season. 

The loss doesn’t shake off Gainesville’s shoulders easily.

 Wilburn said the loss was a wake-up call for the Hurricanes. “We fought hard but just came up a little short,” he said.

“I feel like we could’ve won,” Graham said. “They(Eastside) just played hard. They came to win.” Graham played a hard defensive game and put up 7 points. 

If the Hurricanes want a playoff run they need t to finish games on a strong note and tear down whatever is in the way. They were outscored 20-14 in the final quarter. The team is fully capable of doing so, with their talented and energetic roster pulling in a lot of points per game.

Gainesville plays against Buchholz at home in their first playoff game on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

About Ryan Burke

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