TAMPA — Host Berkeley Prep used a 3-point barrage in the first half and big shots down the stretch in the fourth quarter Tuesday at the Berkeley Prep Invitational to squeak by Wharton 66-65 in a hard-fought battle that came down to the very, very end.
The Bucs controlled the first half with Wharton having the lead only once. Berkeley Prep’s outside shooting proved to be the main reason. The Bucs connected on five first-half 3-pointers, four of which were made by junior guard Reggie Barnes who finished with a team-high 18 points.
The Bucs continued their hot shooting in the third quarter as they stretched their four-point halftime lead to 11 heading into the fourth quarter.
But Wharton refused to fold.
Trailing by eight with just more than three minutes remaining, the Wildcats went on a 12-3 run, capped by a swooping A.J. Astroth layup, to take a one-point lead late in the fourth. Astroth led all scorers with 31 points. Then, with the game tied at 63, Astroth came up big again with another driving basket to regain the lead.
But down two with 20 seconds left, Berkeley Prep didn’t panic. The Bucs inbounded to Nelson Agholor on the left side of the floor for an isolation play. Agholor drove aggressively to the basket and put in the game-tying layup, plus a foul. He calmly sank the free throw to give the Bucs the lead at 66-65.
With no timeouts, Wharton quickly inbounded the ball and raced it up the court. The Wildcats tried to get the ball into Astroth’s hands, but he was blanketed by two Berkeley Prep defenders and that forced the Wildcats into a failed jump shot from the left corner.
Although the ball ended up in his hands at the end, Agholor insisted it could have been any of his teammates with the ball in the closing seconds.
“It could have been any of us,” Agholor said. "That’s the way we play, we have total confidence in each other. So since I had the ball at that moment, I just wanted to be aggressive and try and get either the basket or the foul. Luckily we got both.”
Berkeley Prep will face Jacksonville Providence at 7:30 tonight in the final. And coach Bobby Reinhart knows it won’t be any easier against Providence.
“Providence is probably the most complete team that I’ve seen so far this season,” Reinhart said. “But this is why we host tournaments like this, so we can play and measure ourselves against the big boys.”
Providence reached the final by defeating Gibbs 45-39. Wharton will play Gibbs in the 6 p.m. consolation game.