District boys basketball: Spoto clinches first region berth
TAMPA – Both winners jumped out to first-quarter 22-9 leads and never relented in Wednesday’s Class 6A, District 9 semifinals.
For Jesuit, it’s business as usual as the 2016 state semifinalist (in Class 5A) returned to its district final and advanced to next week’s region tournament with a 76-37 dismantling of Jefferson.
Spoto’s win, however, marks a milestone for the 11-year old school as it reaches both the district final and region tournament for the first time in program history, topping host Robinson 70-52.
Spoto’s early lead was keyed by a trio of 3-pointers by guard Jose Cruz, while the Spartans were big under both baskets and withstood a Knights second period rally.
“We always talk about jumping on people,” coach Augustine Gaddis said. “You want to start them out in a hole and make them try and dig out of it, I told them the Knights would come back and we had to withstand them.”
Sophomore center Joshua Gloster was a big weapon in the paint, finishing with a double double, with 11 points and 12 rebounds for Spoto (11-9).
“I saw they weren’t really rebounding that well, so I decided I was going to box out the whole game and go up and take my shot,” Gloster said. “We started okay, but we finished hard.”
Robinson (12-11) battled back in the second quarter, going on a 15-0 run at one point, but the Knights struggled with their shooting late and couldn’t narrow the deficit any closer, trailing by six at halftime. The Knights offense took a big hit when senior captain Javier Spires (11 points) went down in the third quarter with a right ankle injury and did not return.
Niles Bright’s 10-point third quarter put things out of reach as the senior finished with a game-high 19 points.
Robinson got 12 points from John Garrett and nine from Murad Berrien in the losing effort.
Jesuit senior Tyson Dunn celebrated his 18th birthday with a strong opening quarter and finished with 15 points as the Tigers (21-4) advanced to their eighth straight district final, looking for a sixth title in a row.
For Dunn and his teammates, it was important to come out and have a complete game after dropping their two previous games to Berkeley Prep and Tampa Catholic prior to the district tournament.
“We knew we had to come out strong and play like we have in the past two games,” Dunn said. “We really wanted to get the win today, and we did.”
That strength extended throughout the game as the Tigers worked its fullcourt defense nearly the entire game, which translated to an eventual wear down of the Dragons when Jesuit went on offense.
Senior Stevie Darst had a quiet first quarter in the scorebook, but that didn’t last long as he chimed in with 15 in the second and led the rout with a game-high 22 points. Lucas Uzdavinis had four 3-pointers on his way to 12 points, while Thierry Moliere finished with nine points for Jesuit.
Jefferson was led by 12 points from David Harris, but the Dragons couldn’t get anything going late, scoring just a dozen points in the second half.