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TAMPA — Three to four times a week, Jesuit senior Jack Fleming outraces the sun to the Tigers’ gymnasium to hoist hundreds of 3-pointers before the first bell of the school day.
But in his most hostile setting of the season, Fleming went nocturnal.
Frigid for most of Thursday night’s showdown with Tampa Catholic, Fleming found his groove just before 9 p.m. With TC (18-7) rallying furiously, the 6-foot-6 Colgate signee hit consecutive treys to spawn a 15-0 run and lift the Tigers (23-1) to a 74-57 victory.
The win, before a standing-room-only throng of 1,600, was Jesuit’s fourth in a row in the series.
“There’s really no explanation for it,” said Fleming, who had only one trey — at a critical fourth-quarter juncture — in Tuesday’s 12-point win at Berkeley Prep.
“But my teammates keep finding me and everyone has confidence in me to just keep shooting, so I’ve just got to keep shooting.”
Before Fleming displayed his touch, the Crusaders brandished tenacity. TC spotted Jesuit a 14-0 lead to open the game and trailed by as many as 18 early in the second half before rallying.
Freshman Thomas Dziagwa hit three treys in the third period, the last of which cut Jesuit’s lead to 48-40 entering the fourth. Less than a minute into the final period, forward Jio Molina converted a traditional three-point play to make it 50-45.
But in the span of 57 seconds, Fleming (14 points) nailed his back-to-back treys and point guard Devin Harris (19) drove the lane for a layup to give Jesuit a 58-45 lead. Fleming would sink another 3-pointer during the 15-0 spurt that put the Tigers ahead, 65-45.
“That’s a typical thing. You expend so much energy to get back in it, and I thought we were back in it,” said Crusaders coach Don Dziagwa, whose team was coming off a victory against reigning Class 3A state champ Tampa Prep two nights before.
“You have a tendency to (say), ‘Okay, we’re back in it.’ You take that collective sigh that you’re back in it and bang, just like that it’s back to double digits.”
Fleming and Harris led a balanced Tigers scoring effort that featured Joey Galvis (13 points) and Travis Johnson (18). Thomas Dziagwa and junior Chivarsky Corbett led TC with 15 each.
“(Fleming) has been over 45 percent (from long range) his whole career up until recently,” Tigers coach Neal Goldman said. “He never lacks for confidence and I was just real proud that he stepped up because we needed those 3s in that situation.”