In order to beat the odds, Florence has to overcome its inexperience.

The Buffaloes enter tonight’s home game against Georgetown Gateway Prep in the midst of a tight District 25-3A race. The squads are currently tied for fifth place in the seven-team district with the Gators holding the tiebreaker after winning the first encounter 44-40.

The scenario puts Florence in a near must-win situation, and while head coach Danny Wood feels confident his team can emerge with a victory, he knows his young players must perform beyond their years to make a run at the playoffs.

“We’ve been in close games,” Wood said, “but we just haven’t been able to finish them. A lot of that has to do with our youth since we start three sophomores and only have one returning player.

“So, struggling with consistency and learning how to close out games has been our biggest obstacles this year.”

Minor miscues have been costing the Buffaloes all season, especially in district.

After putting together a solid start to the campaign, Florence won its district opener against Blanco 52-50 in a highly-contested game.

Since then, however, the Buffaloes have lost four of their last five district games, including their current three-game skid.

While Wood hoped for a better showing, he understands expectations must be tempered.

“It’s just some growing pains,” he said. “We’ve only got two seniors, so there are going to be ups and downs that go along with it.”

Despite having a built-in defense for his team’s 10-11, 2-4 record to this point, Wood feels only so much can be overlooked.

“We are at the point and time in the season where some of that stuff can no longer be an excuse,” Wood said. “We’ve got to start playing better. The varsity level is no longer new to them.”

During district play, the Buffaloes have lost three games by five points or less, but thanks to residing in an extremely competitive district, almost every other team is within striking distance.

Jarrell, which is ranked 12th in the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches’ current poll, sits atop the standings with an unblemished record of 6-0. Two games back is Blanco, while Comfort and Ingram Moore occupy the final two postseason spots with identical 3-3 records.

Thanks to the jumble, Florence still has plenty of time to make a push at returning to the playoffs, but they need to eliminate any unnecessary mistakes, according to Wood.

“We have to play solid ball,” he said. “If we do that, we’ve got a chance.”

The sophomore trio of guard Jacob Cox, forward C.J. Giddens and post Matt Edgar, who are each regulars in the starting lineup, will be critical to the Buffaloes success for the remainder of the season. Equally important, however, they will be building blocks for Florence’s future.

“I’m only going to have to replace one starter next year,” Wood said. “Keeping this group together was the big-picture plan. I wanted to bring them up, have them play together and keep them together for the next two or three years.”

Contact Clay Whittington at clayw@kdhnews.com

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