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ST. PETERSBURG — Wharton’s Sir Patrick Reynolds spent most of the Northeast Christmas Invitational final bottled up by Lakewood’s defense. He spent the end of the game being mobbed by teammates.
Reynolds tipped in a missed free throw as time expired Wednesday to cap a wild fourth-quarter comeback and give the Wildcats a 43-41 win and the championship.
Trailing by one with six seconds remaining, Lakewood’s Shabazz Waller missed the front end of a one-and-one and Wharton rebounded. Troy Holston took the outlet pass and drove to the basket, where he was fouled.
With 1.1 seconds left, Holston made the first free throw to tie the game, but missed the second. The ball bounced high off the rim to Reynolds, who caught it and shot at the same time. The ball bounced through the hoop as the buzzer sounded.
“I saw it coming to me and I knew I had to shoot it,” Reynolds said. “I knew it was in right when it left my hand.”
Wharton’s comeback started earlier in the fourth quarter. Trailing 38-28 with three minutes left, Patrick Hauri scored on a dunk and was fouled by Jacobi Boykins. Boykins also received a technical foul for arguing the call, which gave Hauri three free throws. He made all three. Wharton (12-1) retained possession and Holston scored on a tip-in to cut the lead to 38-35 in a matter of seconds.
“That was huge for us,” Wharton coach Tommy Tonelli said. “We were kind of running uphill all game. That got us right back in it.”
Lakewood (7-2) managed to stay three points up until 20 seconds remained. Jaken Grier hit two free throws for Wharton to cut the lead to 41-40. The Wildcats had to foul Lakewood four times before Waller earned his free throw. That’s when he missed and things turned for Wharton.
“We’ve just got to learn how to win these close games,” Lakewood coach Anthony Lawrence said. “We had our four best rebounders in the game on that last free throw. What can you say? That’s how the ball bounces.”
Hauri led Wharton with 19 points. Holston added 11. Reynolds had six points. Lakewood was led by Waller, who had 19.
All-tournament team: Donovan Hale, Largo; Rashad Samuels, Dixie Hollins; LaCorte Suber, Newsome; Brenden Huynh, Sunlake; Patrick Mitchell, Northeast; Ryan Cummings, Tampa Bay Tech; CJ McGill, Troy Holston, Wharton; Shabazz Waller, Anthony Lawrence, Lakewood. MVP: Patrick Hauri, Wharton