SAND HILLS — Bozeman School students know Herbie Harrell. However, most of them haven’t seen him play basketball. Until Wednesday.
Bozeman hosted and defeated North Bay Haven 57-45 in a gymnasium packed by the student body for an in-school game. The early-afternoon encounter served as a fundraiser for the program, as students could watch the contest by paying $3 to escape the final two hours of school.
The group was treated to a game-high 21 points from Harrell, including 15 on five 3-pointers. Harrell and the Bucks (13-7) played in front of their biggest crowd of the year and they fed off the boisterous group with a hot first half. Bozeman made 7 of 11 3-pointers in the first half in leading 37-12.
Many of those watching likely haven’t attended a game given how sparse crowds in Bay County can be and also due to the social nature of teenagers. Clubs, life commitments, family and general apathy play into that fact, but Harrell, a senior, and the Bucks weren’t complaining on Wednesday.
“This was huge for the student body because we wanted to show them what we can do,” Harrell said. “They hear about it all the time, but a lot of them don’t get to see it.”
What they did see was Harrell hit two 3-pointers and stake Bozeman to a 20-4 lead after one quarter. North Bay Haven (1-11) stunted its progress with 11 turnovers in the first eight minutes, giving the Bucks more offensive chances and the Buccaneers paid for the mistakes.
North Bay Haven scored the first two baskets of the second quarter, but Bozeman, paced by two Ryan Peltonen 3-pointers, finished the half on a 17-4 run. Harrell said Bozeman fed off the crowd.
“We had a good feeling coming into the game,” Harrell said. “We used their energy.”
The same vibe was harder to come by in the third quarter. Bozeman didn’t record a field goal until Christian Flowers scored with 30 seconds left. North Bay Haven had its most productive quarter at the time with 15 points and the Buccaneers also protected the ball better with only 11 turnovers in the final three quarters.
Bozeman was fortunate to still lead 46-27 at the end of the third. North Bay Haven rallied to within 10 points on two Andrew Matson free throws with 3:13 to play. Harvey Johnson’s 3-pointer on Bozeman’s next possession ended a 14-5 North Bay Haven run and the Buccaneers couldn’t draw closer.
Jonathan Holmes led North Bay Haven with 11 points. Matson and David Smith each contributed 10 points and Daniel Bingham scored nine in a balanced effort.
Christian Byrd scored nine points and Peltonen and Flowers each six for the Bucks, who beat the Buccaneers for the second time this season. Bozeman won for the sixth straight time and is building momentum heading into a crucial District 4-1A game Friday against visiting Port St. Joe.
The district is as tightly-packed as the Bozeman crowd was on Wednesday. West Gadsden has the top seed, but Nos. 2-4 are still open with Bozeman at 6-5 and Port St. Joe 7-4 in district games.
“I think we’re peaking at the right time,” Harrell said. “Our post players are playing well and all of our shooters are scoring when we need it.”
NORTH BAY HAVEN (45)
Matson 4 2-2 10, Smith 5 0-0 10, Fariss 2 0-0 4, Holmes 5 1-1 11, Hayes 0 1-2 1, Bingham 3 3-5 9, Breck 0 0-2 0. Totals: 19 7-12 45.
Peltonen 2 0-0 6, Johnson 1 0-0 3, Suttles 1 1-2 4, Martinez 1 0-0 2, Harrell 8 0-0 21, Byrd 4 0-0 9, Mayo 0 2-4 2, Flowers 2 2-4 6, Mineer 1 0-0 2, Gay 1 0-0 2. Totals: 21 5-10 57.
North Bay Haven 4 8 15 18 — 45
Bozeman 20 17 9 11 — 57
3-point field goals: Bozeman 11 (Harrell 5, Peltonen 2, Johnson, Suttles, Byrd). Rebounds: North Bay Haven 29, Bozeman 36. Turnovers: North Bay Haven 22, Bozeman 10. Team fouls: North Bay Haven 9, Bozeman 14. Fouled out: None.