GOOCHLAND – Visiting Fluvanna had knocked down 13 3-pointers. Kobe Edmonds was on fire. Freshman Bobby Gardner met the buzzer with a layup, and his Flying Flucos ended the third quarter leading Goochland by 18 points.
But within the next 3 gametime minutes, the lead was 4.
The Bulldogs went full-force with the full-court press and quickly landed shots off of the turnovers they created. Senior Quincy Snead poured in 10 points – 4 from the free-throw line, 6 off of takeaways – as he and Kindrick Braxton combined for a 13-0 run to thrust the Bulldogs back into the mix. Edmonds stayed hot, breaking the run on a bucket. So did the Bulldogs. They drew fouls, and Goochland’s clutch leaders Snead and Kam Holman chipped three more points off the visitors’ lead from the charity stripe. Snead hit a jumper in traffic. Braxton and JB Bell each hit a putback, and Walker Murray netted two off a drive.
And then Holman, with his team down 74-70, drained three from the upper-left arc.
And then Murray forced the turnover…
…and that led to Holman putting-in the assist and drawing the and-one…
…while sending Goochland into a 75-54 lead, and the crowd into a jubilant roar.
Holman added the and-one from the line.
Edmonds tied it briefly again, at 76-all.
Murray knocked down an inbounded pass from behind the arc for three points with 20 seconds left, pushing Goochland back to the point.
Holman then hit an insurance layup off of a flurry of rebounding attempts by the Bulldogs capped by a block from Bell.
Edmonds fought back, shrinking Goochland’s lead back down to one.
But with 16 seconds to play, the Bulldogs worked their way through the forest of Fluvanna’s pressure, and Holman drew the foul one last time, then netted the last two points from the line to cap his team’s fiery 39-point quarter.
“I just try to take smart shots,” Holman said. “I don’t rush anything – I just let it all come to me naturally.”
The defense held firm against the Flying Flucos’ final drive, and Goochland slammed the book shut on an explosive, high-octane, come-from-behind classic to complete the 18-point rally in the final 8 minutes and edge-past Fluvanna 83-80.
“It was great, loud – intensity…I loved it,” said Holman. “I live for games like those.”
While the Bulldogs blossomed with the press, the seed for their success was planted in the second quarter, when junior Jack Hoffler – who got the start in Monday’s thriller – swatted away Edmonds’ shot off the fast-break to unleash the thundering cheers from the home crowd as his block soon led to Holman hitting three off a teammate’s kick-out pass.
“That really motivated our guys and just lit a fire under us,” Goochland head coach Preston Gordon said of Hoffler’s block. “He performed well for us – really proud of what he gave us tonight, and it was only 3 points, but he’s one of our best free-throw shooters and he knocked down some clutch free-throws for us. He gave us more than just offense.”
Snead led the Bulldogs with 26 points and added 8 assists and 6 steals. Holman netted 23 points and added 4 steals. They combined for 25 points in the fourth quarter alone. Snead also had the hot-hand in the first quarter, scoring 11 points, and he didn’t turn the ball over. Holman made 9 in the second.
Braxton was next for Goochland in scoring with 9 points.
“He’s been playing his heart out – and I’ll be the first one to say this, he knows this – he’s not a basketball player, he’s a football player. But he’s a tremendous athlete and he loves to compete” Gordon said of Braxton. “He’s aggressive. He’s a warrior.”
Edmonds scored a game-high 34 points for Fluvanna.
Monday’s wild game was the ideal catalyst for revitalizing a rivalry between Goochland and Fluvanna. The two head coaches, Gordon and Heath Bralley (Gordon also referred to him by his nickname “Heater”) are great friends and go back a ways. They were at Emory & Henry College together. Bralley worked for Gordon’s mother Dianna Gordon for over 10 years when she was principal at Fluvanna. Bralley, who is in his first year as the Flying Flucos’ head coach, called Gordon and asked for a letter of recommendation.
“He’s a really great friend of mine, and he always spoke very highly of what we were doing as a basketball program over here and…he never thought that he would get that opportunity,” Gordon said. “I’m super-duper proud of what he’s been able to accomplish this year in his first year. He’s got a great group of guys, they play really, really hard and they’re young. They’re gonna make some noise in the Jefferson District this year, and if they continue to play the way they did tonight, they can make some noise in the playoffs if they put some more pieces together.”
The Flying Flucos continued their razor-sharp shooting from their 59-24 win over Madison County for three quarters against Goochland, making 8 3-pointers in the first two periods and 5 in the third.
“We knew what they were gonna run; we did not execute our defense the way we should have,” Gordon said. “They made their shots, they shot lights-out…we’ve had a lot of other teams shoot the ball really well here and it’s not because of bad defense, but our defense wasn’t where it needed to be in the first half.
“Second half, we got a whole lot better.”
At halftime, Gordon said that assistant coach AJ Nash mentioned the following to the team: “We’ve weathered the storm before. We’ve weathered this right now. Most teams aren’t gonna shoot the ball this well consistently for four quarters.”
Gordon said that Nash was “absolutely right,” and after the third, Fluvanna didn’t make any more three’s.
“If they’re gonna shoot the ball that well for four quarters, they deserve to win,” Gordon said. “However our guys got a fire underneath of them…we got in a rhythm with our press, and we made plays. We finished.”
“Everyone says defense wins games,” Holman said. “We got in the press, we got a few steals and that just flipped the whole game around.”
Gordon spoke to the need for his team to tighten up some things defensively.
“Giving up 80 points at home is uncharacteristic of our defense,” he said. “We can fix our gaps and our holes.”
It was a very physical and emotional game for both teams.
“These guys, they know each other, they’ve played AAU together or against each other,” Gordon said with a smile. “It’s good to see this rivalry – I don’t think there was any harm…it was just physical. You’re gonna have games like that. And I’m proud of our guys for not backing down, being down 18.”
He’s also proud of their fans.
“They easily could’ve left. They stayed through it. They cheered us on. They were there, jumping up and down – and they’re emotional…I’ve got family members yelling at me from behind the bench,” Gordon said laughing. “It’s good. We have a great community. We have great community support for our athletic program, and I’m super-duper proud to be here.”
It’s not the first time the Bulldogs have come back from a steep deficit. A couple years back, they fell behind Nottoway by at least 28 points, yet they rallied to pull-off the win in overtime. It was a wild one – one that you remember, Gordon said.
Just like Monday’s game. He’ll remember this one, too – and not just for the fact that his team came back from down 18 to win it.
He’ll remember it for it being the first time that he got to play against his good friend “Heater” as an opposing coach – and he’s hoping for many more to come.
“Fluvanna played really well tonight and I wish them the best of luck,” Gordon said while adding, with a laugh, “just not when he’s playing against us.”
Goochland will next host Central Lunenburg this Wednesday (Jan. 8) at 7 p.m.