TAMPA — Their motivation Wednesday night transcended the trophy they would hoist, the citywide bragging rights they would earn, and the next-door private school they would conquer.
For the Blake Yellow Jackets, capturing the eight-team City of Tampa Championship was all about their coach, the one who’s far more subdued on the sideline these days.
Exhorted at halftime by junior Clarence Peterson to win for veteran coach Winston Davis, the Jackets (11-0) held defending champ Tampa Prep (8-1) to four second-half field goals Wednesday en route to a 49-36 triumph in the title game.
Minutes after the final horn, Davis — who underwent surgery to remove a mass near his brain less than two months ago — raised the trophy at midcourt.
“It’s all about him,” said Blake assistant Charles Smith, essentially running the team while Davis — his uncle — assumes a less active role on the bench. “I think it’s bigger to win it just because of everything that he’s going through.”
In accordance with Davis’ wishes, the Jackets did it with defense. The Terrapins tied the score at 21 with 2:50 to play in the first half when 6-foot-6 junior Quincy Mitchell was fouled on a two-handed dunk and sank the ensuing free throw.
But Tampa Prep would not score again until 2:24 remained in the third period, and wouldn’t hit another field goal until point guard Josh Heath’s runner with 1:04 to play in the third. By that time, Blake had built a 35-26 lead.
“It’s a staple of our season, we try to keep our opponents under 40 points,” Smith said. “Actually, when they score over 40 points we penalize our guys in practice.”
Davis, whom Smith said returned to practice less than a week after his surgery, concurred, adding that he’s feeling fine these days.
“It’s special because of my kids,” said Davis, who watched senior point guard Andre Smith total 37 points in the final two games to earn MVP honors.
“They did what they were supposed to do when I went through (the surgery). They hung in there and got themselves better, listened to the assistant coaches. They’re getting their grades, they’re not acting up in school, so it’s about them.”