Officially it was a home game. And even though Bartram Trail’s boys basketball team was playing in a gym about 24 miles from its campus, it felt like home.
The Bears, who have been out of their gym all season, defeated St. Augustine 67-50 Friday night at Flagler College Gymnasium.
“With the crowd and everything it felt like a home game,” said Xavier Hutchinson, who led the Bears (9-5) with 20 points.
Not that the Bears have had much experience with being a home team this season. While their gym floor is getting replaced, they’ve been forced to become road warriors. Friday’s game was just their second home contest of the season. Their other home game was Dec. 18 against Gainesville Buchholz at Liberty Pines Academy, where they have practiced all season.
It will likely be a while longer before they play a real home game.
“We’re taking it day by day,” Bartram Trail coach Jeremiah Teuscher said. “Hopefully (the gym will be ready) in the next month. It’s a serious process, taking out all of the wood from the gym floor. We’ve moved our schedule around.”
That means playing twice each at Fleming Island and Creekside, with the second time around against those teams coming next Thursday and Friday, respectively.
“We feel like it will help us,” Teuscher said. “In the district tournament we’ll be prepared to play on the road in a hostile atmosphere.”
But that’s not the way it was Friday, even with a mixed crowd of Bartram Trail and St. Augustine supporters.
“I’m not going to lie, it was exciting,” said Bartram Trail guard Darrius Garner, who scored 16 points, including three 3-pointers. “It was good energy here, playing in a college gym. And it was the biggest crowd for us.”
“We thought this game would be fun,” Teuscher said. “Playing in downtown St. Augustine against a county opponent. The parents were here, the JV’s were here. It felt like a home game. We embraced it like a home game.”
The Bears took control in the second quarter when they went on a 21-4 spurt to take a 20-point lead (37-17).
“(Bartram is) a good basketball team with a lot of experience,” said St. Augustine coach Quinterrance Cooper, whose squad fell to 4-9. “We’re making strides, but we have a long way to go.”
The Yellow Jackets whittled the Bears’ lead to single digits (52-43) on Kyrie McMillian’s back-door layup with 4:52 left in the game. But the Bears responded with 10 straight points, six from Hutchinson, to go up 62-43 with 2:33 remaining.
“I liked what I saw in the second half, but we have to continue to get better and learn how to play with each other,” Cooper said.
McMillian led the Jackets with 10 points, all in the second half. Juwan Davis added nine points, including two 3-pointers in the first four minutes of the game. St. Augustine played toe-to-toe with Bartram Trail for most of the first quarter, forcing a 10-10 tie with 1:05 left in the first before Bartram scored the final four points of the period.
“They came out with fire,” Teuscher said of the Jackets. “They’re not going to back down. But I felt like we answered well.”
Center Tim Plish added 10 points for the Bears, including six in the second quarter, while forward Ryan Colbert scored eight points.