By Marco Clark, exclusive to the Times Friday night, the Gators met all expectations of securing an opening home playoff game against the Bunkie Panthers in front of packed crowd. Bunkie showed up with about 125 fans to cheer their team. Before the game head coach Brian Williams imparted some valuable insight into what he and the Gators wanted to do to ensure a victory. He said their strength is they may be the most athletic team the Gators have faced all season. On the other hand, their weakness is they are not a good perimeter shooting team.
Most of their points are scored in the paint or from lay-ups. Christopher Small faced Bunkie’s Jamerrian Texada for the opening tip-off to get first possession but came up empty on their first shot attempt. After grabbing the rebound, the Panthers raced down the court to find a open man under the basket for an easy lay-up. The Gators pushed the ball across mid-court. Ty Washington’s shot hit the front of the rim.
The Panthers grabbed the rebound then converted to a shot from just outside the lane to expand their lead, 4-0 on two possessions. After a Gator time out, Washington came off a high screen by Udonis Jones to hit a jumper, 4-2. That broke the dry spell. Gators finished the first quarter with a 16-12 lead. The second quarter was a toss up as both teams exchanged the lead three times.
The Gators held on to lead at the half, 31-26. Zarious Lewis exploded for 10 points in the third to extend their lead. Jones played well on both ends of the court, rebounding, defense and shooting to secure a 51-41 Lakeview lead in the third. The fourth was all Lakeview. The Gators put up eight unanswered points prompting the Panthers to empty their bench. After building a comfortable lead, Williams did the same. The Gators took the win, 62-43. Williams said his team started sluggish, but calmed down and started taking better shots while implementing a plan to force their opponent to take more outside shots.