TAMPA — Reggie Hart dedicated his performance Friday night to a slain cousin, David Simpson, as well as the many who thought before the season that Chamberlain did not have enough to win a second straight district title.
A number of crucial baskets.
Near perfect free-throw shooting.
A career-high 40 points.
In the end, that was more than enough to lift Chamberlain over Wiregrass Ranch 80-65 in the Class 7A-9 championship game and back into the state playoffs.
A region finalist last year behind Times’ Player of the Year Eric Stortz, the Chiefs return and host Seminole on Thursday.
In Stortz’s place, maybe another Player of the Year?
“I don’t want to say Reggie Hart is the best kept secret in the county, I will say Reggie Hart is the best player in the county,” said Chamberlain coach Chris Snyder.
The Chiefs were able to use their quickness to shut off passing lanes and in the second half were relentless on the boards, getting second chance after second chance.
Hart, who averages 25 points, was outstanding against a typically high-scoring Wiregrass Ranch team.
The Bulls (17-10) jumped out to an 8-0 lead, but “it’s almost like we took a breath and said okay,” said Wiregrass Ranch coach Jeremy Calzone, “and as soon as we did that it was kind of like we shut off.”
Hart had 23 points at halftime as Chamberlain took a 39-33 lead.
After the Bulls pulled within 39-37 to open the second half, Hart scored the next eight Chamberlain points and got some help from Ronnie Scott, Ja’Marcus Russ and Ariel Martinez to open the lead back up to double digits.
Wiregrass Ranch junior Rico Kerney, who led the district with an average of 26.5 points and had scored 30-plus in the past four contests, was held to a season-low 10 points.
Christian Parra led the Bulls with 17, while Rashawn Fredericks had 12 for the Chiefs.