Gunter falls against undefeated Bonham
BONHAM — There has been plenty of change for the Gunter Tigers this season.
They have a new head coach for the first time in 15 years and the top seven players from a team that set the school record with 27 victories were seniors.
And while the Tigers have had an up-and-down start to their season, they found themselves trying to knock off an undefeated opponent in the early stages of the 11-3A schedule.
And while Bonham struggled at times in its return following a two-week pause because of COVID-19, the Warriors did enough to win a defensive struggle over Gunter, 39-26, in a district make-up contest.
“They were better at what they were doing than we did at what we do,” Gunter head coach Seth Vansell said. “Bonham plays some of the best defense in the district. They really hurt us with offensive rebounding.”
Kaiden Pines scored 10 points, Ivy Hellman added six points and Brady Harris chipped in four points for Gunter (2-13, 0-2), which hosts Howe on Tuesday night.
Jerry Arrey had 14 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks, Tanner Reaves scored 12 points and Michael Crosby chipped in eight points for Bonham (11-0, 1-0), which hosts Howe on Monday in its other district make-up game.
It didn’t help that Gunter’s leading scorer, Kenny Burkholder, missed a huge chunk of the game because of foul trouble and eventually fouled out with with just over three minutes to go. The junior averaged 21 points in his last four games but finished with just two in this one on a pair of free throws.
“That was a big part of it,” Vansell said. “If not for the foul trouble I think it’s a different story.”
Neither team did much in the fourth quarter as both sides each scored five points in the final eight minutes.
Bonham carried a 13-point lead into the fourth and had a seven-minute scoring drought until Mason Rodriguez’s three-pointer from the right wing with 4:10 remaining. The only other basket in the frame by the Warriors was a layup from Arrey with 1:23 remaining.
“It’s our youth that’s showing up in games like this,” Vansell said. “I think the hardest part when you’re new, it’s establishing your culture. We’ve had six losses by eight points or less. I look for us to be better in the second half of district than the first.”
Gunter was unable to take advantage. The Tigers were down 12 after Hellman opened the fourth by hitting a free throw but it took four minutes before they scored again on a pair from the line by Pines, who made the only Gunter basket in the quarter with 37 seconds remaining.
Bonham pushed its lead to 18 in the latter stages of the third quarter on back-to-back buckets from Arrey. Pines then hit a three-pointer and Tony Lopez scored underneath to trim Gunter’s deficit to 34-21 at the end of the frame.
The Tigers got to within 10 points — the closest they were in the second half — after a three from Harris and a Burkholder free throw with 5:43 left in the third.
Bonham took a 24-12 half-time lead when Arrey make the final two baskets of the second quarter.
It took the Tigers almost five minutes to score in the stanza when Cade Dodson came up with a steal and layin and Harris added a free throw a minute-and-a-half later. Those were the only Gunter points in the second as Burkholder missed the final 7:46 of the half after picking up his third foul.
Bonham opened the game with a 10-1 run that was fueled by Reaves, who converted a three-point play and connected on a three from the top of the key.
Pines ended the Warriors’ momentum with a three after a steal and Hellman’s three-pointer from the left wing in the final minute of the first quarter allowed the Tigers to pull within 13-9 after the opening eight minutes.