BRANDON — Brandon coach Jamie Turner knew that to upset East Bay in Tuesday’s district semifinals, point guard Jonathan Jean needed to be slowed, harassed and befuddled.
He couldn’t score 18 points like he did in their previous meeting.
He couldn’t race up and down the court and dictate the pace of the game.
And by no means was he allowed to drive and dish.
“It had to be done,” said Brandon junior Pedro Lopez, who went out and did it.
Behind some exceptional man-to-man defense by Lopez, strong rebounding and perfect free-throw shooting down the stretch, the Eagles stunned East Bay 49-41, clinching a playoff berth in Class 7A.
Brandon (15-11) hosts Strawberry Crest, a 52-43 winner over Plant City, in Thursday’s championship.
Lopez scored eight of his 12 in the fourth quarter, and held Jean to seven points. After playing a 2-3 zone in the first half, Brandon switched to a box-and-one in the second half with Lopez man up on Jean, who failed to score in double figures for the first time all season.
“Jon Jean is a great player. He’s like coach out there. And we said, we gotta get this guy out of the game,” Turner said. “Pedro is one of the most underrated guards around. He’s one of the best on-ball defenders out there. He has a big heart, and tonight he had the eye of the tiger.”
And he had help.
Trailing 24-19 early in the second half, Brandon relied on big men Roderick Davis and Kiefer Jefferson-Grimes during a 18-2 run. Davis hit a 3-pointer and scored on a putback, and Jefferson-Grimes scored twice inside as Brandon led 37-27 with six minutes left.
But Jean hit a 3, and Kendell Barnes added one to tie it at 39 with 2:34 left.
Lopez, though, quickly went coast-to-coast on a drive to put Brandon back ahead for good as East Bay (18-7) went cold, missing two 3s and two potential tying free throws.
'Jefferson-Grimes, Khevin Wilson, Davis and Lopez all went 2-for-2 from the line in the last 29 seconds to seal the win.
“We’ve been waiting for this since they beat us in the championship game last season,” Lopez said. “We had to get them back.”