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TRINITY — In a pair of frantic finishes Wednesday, top seeds Mitchell and Land O’Lakes earned victories in the District 6A-10 semifinals and will meet for the title Friday.
Host Mitchell almost blew a 17-point lead to River Ridge, which got a career-high 32 from Mikey James, but held on for a 64-59 win. The night began with Land O’Lakes pulling out a tight-throughout 48-46 defeat of Tarpon Springs.
Knowing a playoff berth was at stake both head coaches went with a whatever-it-takes mentality. For Mitchell that meant taking the air out of the ball early, which nearly backfired.
For Land O’Lakes it meant the game might not be the prettiest to watch.
“We’ll win ugly. The sloppier, the better because we’re not the best offensive team,” said Gators coach David Puhalski, whose group got just enough timely shooting to win. Sophomore Tom Guglielmello sank a 3-pointer with 1:10 left to give the Gators a 47-45 lead.
Tarpon senior T.J. Aguilar (15 points) had a chance to tie it but his shot was off the mark with 30 seconds left. The Spongers were unable to foul until nine ticks remained and Guglielmello hit 1-of-2 at the line. The Spongers (12-12) added a free throw in the closing seconds, missed intentionally but could not get the rebound.
Wednesday’s contest saw 12 lead changes. Neither side led by more than five. Brandon Dorsey had 15 points, eight in the fourth quarter, and fellow sophomore Mike Obi added 12 points and seven boards for Land O’Lakes (11-11).
Tarpon hit only 1-of-11 in the first quarter, while the Gators endured an 0-for-13 stretch and it was 17-15 Spongers at the break.
But the game picked up dramatically in the third quarter. Scottie James hit a trio of 3s in the period as the teams combined to score one more point (33) than they had the entire first half.
Aguilar took over in the fourth quarter, scoring eight, but every time he hit a big basket the Gators responded. After a Spongers steal Aguilar scored while being fouled, giving his team a 40-38 edge with 3:25 left. However Land O’Lakes caught a break when Justin Forchion threw up a bank shot that went in.
Israel Atkins gave Tarpon its last lead on a pair of free throws with 1:21 remaining.
“We did a pretty nice job on Aguilar but he’s still going to score some points,” Puhalski said.
6A-12: Packers shake off slow start
Largo, the top seed in Class 6A, District 12, overcame a slow start to beat Dixie Hollins 75-48.
But the Packers received a blow when Jonathan Crawford was ejected after picking up his second technical foul in the second half.
Crawford will have to sit out two games and could be out longer if his ejection was considered a major infraction.
“It’s going to hurt us not having Jonathan in there,” Largo coach Phil Price said. “We definitely lose some depth.”
The Packers led by three at the half before cruising. Maurice Murphy had a team-high 20 points for Largo.
The Packers will host Palmetto in Friday’s championship game. The Tigers knocked off No. 2 seed Osceola.
5A-12: Moore takes over in Bogie's win
GULFPORT — Boca Ciega entered the Class 5A, District 12 tournament beat up and beat down.
Last week, the Pirates lost forward Michael Clark to an ankle injury. His absence was going to be felt on a team that lost five of its final eight regular-season games and needed to someone to emerge in order to beat rival Lakewood in a semifinal game Wednesday night.
Enter Dallas Moore.
Moore, a senior, is the elder statesman in a county now dominated by sophomores. He molded and morphed his game with a diversity of shots that included layups, free throws, jumpers and turnaround fadeaways. By game’s end Moore had a whopping 42 points as he helped Boca Ciega win 77-65.
The Pirates will play host and top seed Gibbs in Friday’s championship game. The Gladiators beat Bradenton Southeast 71-55 in the other semifinal.
Lakewood coach Anthony Lawrence Sr. pretty much summed up the game afterward.
“Too much Dallas Moore,” he said.
Whether the Spartans were double- or triple-teaming him, Moore still found a way to not only provide points, but also help Boca Ciega get off to a fast start, something that has plagued the Pirates during their recent slump.
Boca Ciega led 16-10 after the first quarter and 34-16 at the half.
Moore ended up outdueling Lakewood’s Anthony Lawrence Jr., who finished with a team-high 27.
In the other semifinal, the Gladiators cruised behind a balanced attack that had four players reach double figures, including Barry Brown with a team-high 15.
7A-9: Familiar foes to meet again
A championship matchup between St. Petersburg and Seminole, anticipated since the season began, became a reality when the top seeds in Class 7A, District 9 won in the semifinals.
The Green Devils, the No. 2 seed, throttled Countryside 83-48. The top-seeded Warhawks struggled before putting away Clearwater 47-44.
This is the seventh time St. Petersburg and Seminole have met in the past two seasons. Both played in the district final and region semifinal last season with the Green Devils winning both.
This season, the teams split their games in the regular season with Seminole winning the last one to snap a six-game losing streak in the rivalry and clinch the No. 1 seed.
“Here we go again,” St. Petersburg coach Chris Blackwell said.
The Green Devils had extra motivation in the semifinals. Last month, St. Petersburg was upset by the Cougars, a game that ultimately cost the Green Devils the No. 1 seed.
This time St. Petersburg wasted no time putting away Countryside. The Green Devils led 43-29 at the half. Demontrae Adams and Terrell Burney each had 17 to lead St. Petersburg.
Darnell Lovett had a team-high 20 for the Cougars.
“The last time we played against Countryside we were flat,” Blackwell said. “We were more focused this time, and put a lot more pressure on them.”
In the other semifinal, the Warhawks got a scare, falling behind 10-4 in the first quarter. Seminole was able to rally thanks to the play of Marco Behori, who had a game-high 21 points off the bench, including four 3-pointers.
Staff writer Bob Putnam contributed to this report.