LAKELAND — Shorecrest knew its Class 3A state semifinal would be played above the rim.
The Chargers do not have anyone taller than 6-foot-6 and were giving up at least 2-3 inches to Weston Sagemont’s two post players, Jeff Coby and Egor Koulechov.
So Shorecrest guards did what they always do. They stepped back from the chaos and fired.
Only problem was they missed — a lot.
The Chargers shot 8 percent from 3-point range (2-for-25) Tuesday as they fell behind quickly and never caught up in a 71-49 loss.
“The shots were just not falling for us,” Shorecrest coach Daryl Blume said. “We shot 37 percent for the year and we’re used to making about 10 3-pointers a game. We only hit two and missed a lot early.”
The 3-point shot has always been the Chargers’ equalizer. But they missed their first 16 3-point attempts, a stretch that lasted until Luke Blume hit with 1:54 remaining in the third quarter.
Shorecrest (23-9), which was making its first state semifinal appearance, seemed to struggle with depth perception in the vastness of the Lakeland Center. Never before had the Chargers played in an arena this big. Guards Blume, Ricky Quiroz and Johnny Koenig tried to get good shots, but the ball rolled around the rim and came out. So did the air from Shorecrest’s chances.
Missed shots from beyond the arc turned into long rebounds, which turned into easy baskets for the Lions (24-7), who scored built a 24-12 lead at the end of the first quarter.
“They came out strong,” Koenig said. “When they were able to get steals and dunks right away, that’s never a good start.”
Elegant basketball this was not. The defense was relentless, sure. But nerves and impatience seemed to play an equally obstructive role. Players stumbled, tripped and fell, threw up rushed shots and missed easy baskets.
Still, the Chargers did not succumb. They staggered from their early deficit, clamped down on Sagemont’s inside game and cut the score to 39-29 early in the third quarter.
“I thought we kind of weathered the storm, and we would be able to go on a little run and get back into it,” Daryl Blume said.
But the Chargers were unable to get hot anywhere from the outside. Weston, meanwhile, was efficient around the basket. If Coby was not going up for a two-handed dunk, Koulechov was there to tap it in.
The Lions outscored Shorecrest 20-14 in the third quarter to go up 57-39. Sagemont increased its lead in the fourth quarter.
Coby finished with a team-high 22 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Koulechov had 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Koenig (14 points) and Blume (13) were the Chargers to reach double figures in scoring.
“We shoot from the outside. That’s our game,” Daryl Blume said. “We were going to keep firing until the end. You can’t tell your shooters not do that. We just wish we would have hit more.”