Boys basketball: Jesuit 60, Seffner Christian 51
TAMPA – This was supposed to be the right moment for Seffner Christian’s breakthrough against Jesuit.
The stars had aligned for the Crusaders. They had a veteran team with 10 seniors on the roster, many of whom played varsity for years.
The Tigers, meanwhile, were expected to go through some growing pains after graduating three significant contributors from last season’s team that reached the Class 5A state semifinals.
What Jesuit lacked in experience, it made up for in resiliency. The Tigers overcame a five-point deficit in the second half to win 60-51 and remain undefeated.
“We thought this was going to be one of our toughest games of the year,” Jesuit coach Neal Goldman said. “We thought that was one of our best wins last year against Seffner Christian and we didn’t know how we were going to pull it off again. But we have some tough kids.”
The turning point came in the final four minutes. Lucas Uzdavinis hit one of his four 3-pointers to give the Tigers (3-0) a 48-45 lead with 3:37 remaining. Stevie Darst then hit a pair of free throws to make it 50-45 with 2:06 left.
Darst, a Loyola commit, finished with a team-high 20 points and was 12-of-13 from the line, including eight straight free throws down the stretch that prevented Seffner Christian (2-1) from any kind of run to get back into the game.
“This is a really big win for us,” Darst said. “It really showed our toughness. It’s the same kind of toughness we showed all of last year in getting to the final four. Seffner Christian is a big, physical, athletic, talented team.
“This is a game that showed how resilient we can be coming back from a lead in the fourth quarter and it will help us prepare for the playoff run later in the season.”
Darst was the only player who averaged double figures in scoring last season (15.6 points per game). But it is not the points that are meaningful. So is his leadership. Goldman praised Darst’s command of the floor and ability to communicate with teammates, especially during the critical stages of the fourth quarter when Jesuit rallied.
It is a role that Darst embraces.
“I wanted to be a more of a leader this year and show the younger guys how to handle themselves in big game situations like this,” Darst said.
The Crusaders wanted to schedule as many challenging games as possible early in the season to prepare for play in Class 4A, District 4, which includes Calvary Christian and Tampa Prep, both of which won district titles last season.
Seffner Christian’s Darius Lue finished with a team-high 18 points, including four 3-pointers.