NEW PORT RICHEY — Just eight seconds remained when James Grubb’s arm shot over two defenders, sinking a shot and sealing Gulf’s 75-73 victory Wednesday.
The Buccaneers played a close back-and-forth game against Wiregrass Ranch.
Gulf assistant Greg Nixon said his players, often take shots they shouldn’t.
“We toned it down, played a good game,” Nixon said. “We made good decisions.”
It was obvious early the game would be tight. A free throw by Gulf’s Edin Spijodic tied the score at 16 with 51.3 seconds remaining in the first quarter. Gage Folsom sank two free throws for the Bulls in those remaining seconds, pulling Wiregrass Ranch (2-3) ahead 18-16.
The halftime buzzer sounded just seconds after Joey Nickerson’s 3-pointer sailed into the net and Gulf (5-2) took a four-point lead into the second half, the biggest advantage either team would have for the rest of the game.
Nixon said the biggest problem in the second half was getting the defense back on track. Wiregrass Ranch scored 21 in the third quarter but trailed 58-57.
Grubb sank a 3-pointer to end the third quarter. Gulf fans jumped to their feet cheering when referees signaled the basket would count, giving the Buccaneers a one-point lead.
The Bulls weren’t done yet, though. Alex Walker made a 3-pointer that put Wiregrass Ranch up by four with 2:18 remaining in the game.
Wiregrass Ranch led 73-70 with less than a minute remaining. Grubb sank a field goal that drew the Buccaneers within one. A series of turnovers marred the next few possessions until Grubb’s final two shots — a field goal and free throw — sealed Gulf’s win.
Grubb led the Buccaneers with 27 points. Nickerson had 18.
DJ Ward led Wiregrass Ranch, scoring 17. Sammy Buzik had 12 points, and Folsom and Walker each had 11.