Anyone who follows East Gadsden basketball, knows the season is just getting started.
And the Jaguars face a critical district matchup this week.
East shares a five-team district with Godby, Taylor County, Florida State High School and Madison County. The Jaguars have already beaten Taylor County and Madison County and face Godby at home on Saturday, Jan. 7.
Godby, 12-1, has pretty much had its way in the Big Bend Region, with its only loss coming to Summit Christian, a private school from Palm Beach County.
East started its schedule a little later and has five losses against a couple of wins -- over district rivals.
The Jaguars started playing the night after football season ended and took a while to get up to full strength.
As coach Dimitric Salters acknowledged, it had been a building process since their opening home court loss to Leon. And they face the Lions again at home this Thursday night in what should be a perfect tuneup for Godby.
Last week the Panthers were in tournament action at Tallahassee Community College.
On Thursday, Dec. 29, the Jaguars faced Rutherford High School out of Panama City. The Class 5A Rams came in with a 12-2 record that included a win over Wakulla.
East got behind early and trailed the first half, 38-20. But the Jaguars outscored the Rams in both the 3rd and 4th quarters, 14-7 and 17-8. However, they could not close the gap and the final score was 53-5, Rutherford.
The next afternoon, East played neighboring Bainbridge, who had just lost a close contest with Leon, 59-55.
The game started off fast with Zameric Holt edging Bearcat Trea Kelly for the jump. Then it stayed even with the teams matching point for point. The Bearcats had more height under the baskets but the Jaguars showed a better organized offense. At the end of the first period, East led 17-13. That lead would grow to nine points late in the second quarter, until Bainbridge started reeling them in.
When the first half ended, it was East ahead 34-29, and the game was becoming notable for the lack of whistles.
The game got extremely tight by midway through the 3rd quarter as East's lead shrunk to a point, 36-35, then tied at 38-38 as both teams stayed stingy with baskets. As that quarter ended, the Jaguars were behind 44-43. As it neared the three minute mark in the 4th quarter, the game was tied.
With two and a half minutes left Bainbridge pulled ahead and the fouls started. With 1:51 left, Bainbridge led 53-51, then Jaguar Chris Daniels made two free throws, but East still trailed 56-53 and missed several inside shots.
With 18 seconds left, East was trailing 57-55 and saw any hopes of a tie start to fade as the Bearcats were back at the foul line. Then East had its chance at a tie, but missed the shot and sent Bainbridge back to the foul line with seven seconds left.
The Bearcats picked up another point and the game ended with Bainbridge winning 58-55.
Afterwards, Salter agreed it had been a tough tournament, but said he wasn't worried as they are starting to pick it up and will be ready when the regular resumes.
Tournament play was also tough for West Gadsden High School as the Panthers saw their unbeaten streak ended on Dec. 28 against 6A Columbia out of Lake City by the score of 65-53.
West Gadsden did win its two other tournament games beating Hawthorne, 66-63 on Dec. 27 and defeating St. Francis Catholic, 55-49 on Dec. 29.
The Panthers host district rival Port St. Joe on Friday, Jan. 6. And on Saturday, Jan. 7, West will be at home again to fact Cottondale, who is having a similarly successful season.
As of Monday, maxpreps.com continued to rank West Gadsden, 12-1, as the number one Division 1A team in Florida, followed by Chiefland, 10-1, and Cottondale, 11-2.
Willie Holmes was selected as Panther Player of the Week. The senior led the team in scoring through the tournament games.