High school basketball: Theo Stephens drops 22 as Gainesville hangs on to beat P.K. Yonge

The high school basketball season in Gainesville got a warm welcome on Tuesday night at the P.K. Yonge Blue Wave visited Gainesville High's Purple Palace in the biggest game of the young season.

"It's great to have a packed gym like this on a Tuesday night," Gainesville head coach Mike Barnes said. "It's great. These games are never easy."

Among those present were members of Buchholz and Hawthorne's football teams, which will play for a spot in their respective state championship games on Friday night.

Buchholz Quarterback Creed Whittemore wears a Mississippi State hat, left, while sitting next to fellow teammate wide receiver Jaren Hamilton, right, wearing an Alabama beanie while watching the Gainesville Hurricanes hosting the P.K. Yonge Blue Wave at Gainesville High School in Gainesville, FL on Tuesday, November 29, 2022. Whittemore recently committed to Mississippi State while Hamilton recently committed to Alabama. The Hurricanes won 57-54. [Doug Engle/Ocala Star Banner]
Buchholz Quarterback Creed Whittemore wears a Mississippi State hat, left, while sitting next to fellow teammate wide receiver Jaren Hamilton, right, wearing an Alabama beanie while watching the Gainesville Hurricanes hosting the P.K. Yonge Blue Wave at Gainesville High School in Gainesville, FL on Tuesday, November 29, 2022. Whittemore recently committed to Mississippi State while Hamilton recently committed to Alabama. The Hurricanes won 57-54. [Doug Engle/Ocala Star Banner]

They and the rest of those who filed into Gainesville's gymnasium were treated with an exciting showcase as the Hurricanes (3-0) held on to beat the Blue Wave (0-2) 57-54.

Gallery: Gainesville tops P.K. Yonge 57-54

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Here are takeaways from Tuesday's matchup.

Theo Stephens picks up where he left off

Gainesville senior Theo Stephens finished last season having averaged 17.7 points per game, which earned him a spot on the Gainesville Sun's All-Area first team.

And if Tuesday night's performance was any indication, Stephens' final year with the Hurricanes is going to be another doozy.

Stephens led all scorers Tuesday night with 22 points.Stephens had five two-point buckets, a three-pointer and a nine-for-10 effort from the free-throw line.

The return of Seth Childers proves pivotal for 'Canes

The Hurricanes were without their starting point guard, Seth Childers, at the end of last season as Childers suffered a season-ending ACL tear.

After an offseason of rehab, Childers, now a senior, has returned to Gainesville's starting lineup .

"He's just a really big piece obviously," Barnes said of Childers. "He went through his rehab 100%, was never down on himself, continued to show up to everything ... it just kinda says a lot about his character."

Playing as a true point guard, Childers won't lead scoring often, but the 'Canes undoubtedly play better when he's on the floor. On Tuesday,he finished with seven points.

Blue Wave, Hurricanes go shot for shot down the stretch

Neither team was able to pull away and distance itself in Tuesday night's contest.

At the half, P.K. Yonge led 25-24 as senior Moses Horne knocked down a three to take the narrow lead into the break.

However, after a back-and-fourth third period, Gainesville led 39-36. The Hurricanes would lead by as many as five before both teams traded blows from beyond the arc.

P.K. Yonge junior Alijah Bertrand got things started with a three-ball, which Gainesville senior SJ Westbrooks immediately answered.

Bertrand went on to drop another deep shot, which was answered by Childers.

"Alijah Bertrand, he hit some big ones," P.K. Yonge head coach Boderick Johnson said. "We've got some of our younger guys stepping into some new roles and getting their identity."

The three-point shootout would cease after P.K. Yonge sophomore Aidan Bell nailed a three-pointer, followed by an and-1 opportunity for Gainesville.

"He hit some big shots and he's just a sophomore," Johnson said of Bell, who is just finishing up the football season.

Plenty to go around for the Blue Wave

Unlike the Hurricanes, whose two offensive leaders in Childers (22 points) and senior Josh Hayes (13 points) scored half of Gainesville's points, P.K. Yonge has plenty who can find the rim.

While Horne led the way with nine points, Bell and senior Elijah Harris had eight points apiece. Meanwhile, seniors Isaiah Cooper and Anthony Delucas each added seven points.

"We lost our two leading scorers from last year," Johnson said. "So we're going to be scoring by committee, which I'll take any night so everyone can stay engaged on the offensive end."

Looking ahead

P.K. Yonge will look to rebound against another cross-city opponent when it visits Eastside on Dec. 6. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

Meanwhile, the Hurricanes hope to keep their undefeated start to the season alive when they visit Palatka on Friday night at 7:30.

This article originally appeared on The Gainesville Sun: Gainesville High boys' basketball wins tight affair over P.K. Yonge