The current Pirate squad continued the celebration with a strong first period. Gosnell (18-3, 8-3 3-4A) opened the game on a 12-1 run highlighted by a thunderous dunk from forward Richard Razor. Razor was fouled on the play and nailed the free throw for a three-point play.
Highland finally got on the board midway through the first period and finished the quarter on an 8-4 run as the Pirates took a 16-10 lead into the second half.
Gosnell exploded in the second period, scoring the first 16 points. Tre Howe scored 10 of his game-high 29 points in the period. His three-point play with 4:34 left in the half gave Gosnell a 27-10 lead.
"We got a lot of steals and they (Highland) missed a lot of shots," said Pirate head coach, Kirk Glintborg. "That's a good combination for us because we can get out on the break and get into a nice rhythm offensively and defensively."
A nice rhythm indeed. The Pirates swiped 15 turnovers in the half that led to 24 fast-break points.
After his three-point play, Howe scored on the next two Pirate possessions as Gosnell jumped out to a 30-10 lead. Rod Jones scored the final two baskets of the half for the Pirates as Gosnell took a 38-16 lead into the break.
Just when it looked like the Pirates might blow this game out of the water, the Rebels scrapped their way back into the game, thanks to some good interior passing and a cold Pirate offense in the third period.
After a pair of free throws from Howe to open the third period gave Gosnell a 40-16 lead, the Rebels went on a 17-2 run over the next four minutes of the game.
"We started missing shots," said Glintborg. "And then they (Highland) did a great job of handling our pressure. We weren't getting back on defense and they were getting easy shots in the lane. It was the opposite of the first half. When we don't make shots we can't get our defense going, and when the other team makes the shots, we can't get our offense going as easy. We just couldn't find our rhythm."
Avery Johnson's basket with just over two minutes to play in the third cut a one-time 24-point Gosnell lead down to just nine.
"They (Highland) came out with nothing to lose," said Glintborg. "And it paid off. They did a good job of slowing things down and attacking the ball. They were the aggressor and we weren't getting after loose balls. Sometimes when you're up by 20, that ball on the floor doesn't seem so important."
Ahead by nine with just over a minute left, the Razor knocked down a pair of free throws and Terrance Anderson hit a basket near the end of the period as the Pirates took a 51-38 lead into the final frame.
Highland's Ethan Hope opened the period with a basket to cut the Pirate lead to 11 before Razor and Howe delivered the knock-out blow. Razor converted a three-point play and Howe followed that up with a three-point bomb followed by another Razor basket to bump the Pirate lead back up to 19 at 59-40 with under six minutes to play in the game. Highland never got closer than 14 in the period as the Pirates preserved the home court victory.
"That three from Tre (Howe) and the three-point play from Richard (Razor) were huge," said Glintborg. "I think they sensed the urgency of the moment and they wanted to put them (Highland) away."
For the game, Howe's 29 led the way and the senior guard also swiped seven steals and dished out five assists. Razor finished with another double-double scoring 17 points while grabbing 12 boards. Rod Jones chipped in nine points.
Johnson led the Rebels with 17, Hope added 16 and Cody Odell chipped in 10.
The Pirates are in the midst of a seven game winning streak and finish the regular season with three home games. Gosnell hosts Valley View on Tuesday followed by Pocahontas on Friday and finish the regular conference season against Trumann on Tuesday, Feb. 5.
"This kids know that every game is from here on out is as important as taking on the first place team," said Glintborg who's hoping to at least hold on to the second place spot, if not higher, heading into the district tournament at Brookland in three weeks.
"Each game is the most important game of the year."
Gosnell 60, Highland 39
The Gosnell Junior Pirates defeated the Highland Junior Rebels, 60-39, Friday night.
The Pirates jumped out to a 16-3 lead after one, led 25-17 at halftime and 43-23 heading into the fourth.
The Pirates (12-8, 5-6 3-4A) were led by Tabari Herron's 15 points, Tramaine Anderson added 12, Carlos Blackmon scored 13 and Marcus McClain chipped in nine.