Men's Hoops Hold on in West Palm Beach

Men's Hoops Hold on in West Palm Beach
Adrian Gonzalez hit his first five shots on the way to 19 points, including a big three that was the knockout blow in Barry's narrow win at Palm Beach Atlantic. Photo by Joel Auerbach

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Barry University point guard Deric Hill fell one assist shy of a school record in the Buccaneers’ 84-78 win at Palm Beach Atlantic Wednesday. The win bumped Barry’s record to 16-5 entering a three-game homestand beginning Saturday.

The win erased the sting of a 20-point loss Saturday at Saint Leo, which came three nights after the Buccaneers’ 18-point win over then-No. 6 Florida Southern.

“Coach was on us, telling us every team has adversity, so adversity hits, and we just have to counter it,” Hill said after scoring 15 points and dishing out a career-high 15 assists. “It feels good (to be at home for the next three games). We’ve been away for a while.”

After Hill recorded his 14th assist of the game on a 3-pointer by Arie Williams with 9:39 to play to give the Buccaneers a 17-point lead, Palm Beach Atlantic (8-15) went on a 13-0 run to cut the deficit to four. Barry built its lead back to eight with 4:22 remaining on a pair of Magne Fivelstad free throws before the Sailfish drew within four again at the 2:37 mark on Garet Tucker’s free throw.

Adrian Gonzalez, who finished with 19 points, buried a triple in the corner on Hill’s final assist 30 seconds later to push the Bucs’ lead back to seven. After Hill sank a free throw with 1:16 left to keep Barry in front by seven, PBA’s Ronnell Ross and Alan Hardy each scored in a span of 10 seconds as the Sailfish cut it to three inside the final minute. PBA’s Clayton Williams sank the first of three free throws to cut the gap to two before missing the second and intentionally missing the last, but the Buccaneers got the rebound, and Hill sank four free throws down the stretch to ice it.

Hill, who was 11-for-12 from the free throw line, said he wasn’t upset about not matching the school single-game record for assists, and he wasn’t going to blame his coach Butch Estes, who lives in the West Palm Beach neighborhood.

“Nah, I don’t think he knew, and neither did I,” said Hill, who is 14 assists away from breaking the school season record of 168 held by Nelson Fonseca in 1993-94. “I just wanted to win.”  

Hill found Yunio Barrueta for his 10th assist on a nifty look-ahead for a transition basket to put the Buccaneers on top, 53-44. Juan Ferrales’ 3-pointer on another assist by Hill on the fastbreak the next trip down the floor gave Barry a 10-point lead with 13:55 to go. Barrueta had his ninth double-double of the season, finishing with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Gonzalez hit his fifth straight field goal on Hill’s fifth assist, and Alvaro Simoza scored on a drop-off underneath from Savad Garner as the Bucs took a 40-30 lead. Palm Beach Atlantic cut it to two on a pair of Marcus Hardy free throws with 48 seconds left in the opening half before Hill sank a pair of free throws, and the Bucs picked up a defensive stop on the Sailfish’s last-shot possession to take a four-point lead into the break.

Barry, which led by as many as 11 in the first 20 minutes, shot 59 percent in the first half, going 19 of 32. PBA was 11 of 32 for 34 percent.

Fivelstad scored 14 points, and Ferrales had 13 points, six rebounds and two blocks, going five of 10 from the floor.

“We really had to play well tonight to come away with a win,” Estes said. “Particularly, it feels good because we did it on the road against a team and at a place that’s really hard to play. So we had a lot of great individual performances. I thought Deric Hill was just tremendous throughout the entire game, both defensively and offensively. And Juan Ferrales, I don’t know what (PBA’s) Evie Graham had ... but he’s taken the best player on every other  team and just shut ‘em down on a consistent basis.

“I was glad to see our kids rally and come back after that disappointing loss, and come with some intensity and passion and enthusiasm for the game, and we certainly did that tonight. “

The Buccaneers are looking forward to the three-game homestand.

“It’s great to get back to our gym, where the fans have been great, and I hope they’ll really turn out in big numbers for these last three games,” Estes said. “Because if we can somehow take care of one at a time, and right now it’s Eckerd on Saturday … we take one at a time, it's great to have three, we need these three at home. If we can be successful there, then we can worry about going on the road and trying to pick up the last two.”

As for that assist record that never was to be  …

“He would’ve broke the record,” Estes said with a chuckle, “if I would’ve let him in or let him keep going.”

TIP-INS: Barry's Senior Day on Feb. 22 versus Rollins will culminate the three-game homestand. Barry University will hold a special Make-A-Wish Foundation event following the women's game and just prior to the men's game on Feb. 22 in the school's Health & Sports Center. Barry is an active participant in the NCAA Division II fundraising initiative to grant wishes to area kids with severe medical issues. To donate to the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Barry University's cause, call 305-899-4823.