DURANT — Durant’s historic run continued in Tuesday’s Class 5A region semifinal, but it came at the expense of East Bay.
The Cougars beat the Indians 57-51 to extend their school-record win streak to 12, win just their second playoff game and advance to their first region final.
“Biggest game in history right now,” Durant coach Trent Tice said. “It’s a fun ride.”
East Bay, which lost to Durant four times this season including a district final, missed out on a chance to play in its second region final and first since 1968.
“Right now, they’re the better team because they beat us four times,” East Bay coach William Teeden said. “We were right there. We just didn’t make the plays.”
Just as they did in a lopsided region quarterfinal win over Ocala Forest, the Cougars raced out to a commanding halftime lead. Durant (21-4) led 33-19 at the break and 41-21 midway through the third quarter.
East Bay (18-10) slowly eroded its deficit and pulled within 48-39 thanks to seven straight points by Dario Duque, who was held scoreless through three quarters.
The Indians kept chipping away, cutting the deficit to 54-51 in the final minute on a reverse layup by Jesse Bellenger and Dillion Hunter’s bank shot off the glass. But just as he had done in the previous game, Andre Nation, who scored a game-high 23, made a crowd-pleasing dunk for the final basket. That play came after Nation stripped Duque and slammed the ball through as the final buzzer sounded.
“He’s been our guy all year,” Tice said of his star senior forward.
A.J. Nelson added 16 points for Durant. East Bay was led in scoring by Justin Green’s 14 and Hunter’s 13.